North Carolina Basketball: Does UNC have the ACC Player of the Year in Armando Bacot?

Hubert Davis should be able to look to returning big man Armando Bacot to anchor his first team as Head Coach.

Armando Bacot is coming off a very productive season for the Tar Heels. The 6-10 junior post player averaged 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to help lead North Carolina basketball to an 18-11 record on the season. After his sophomore season Bacot tested the NBA waters. In June, though, he announced he would be coming back to UNC for his junior season.

What does that mean for UNC and how will having Bacot anchor the post help Hubert Davis in his inaugural season?

Now, we take a look at what Bacot brings to the table in his third season. As a junior, he could turn into the most pivotal post in Division I basketball this season.

But before you know where a player is going, you need to know where he came from. When it comes to pure pedigree, few came into college with as much as Bacot.

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The Pedigree

As a recruit, Bacot was a 5-star center and ranked as the No. 27 player in the 2018 Rivals150. He played in both the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand All-American games, while being voted as a MaxPreps All-American.

However, with all the individual accolades, it was his teams’ accomplishments that really set Bacot apart. He was a member of the U18 USA National team that won a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship.

On the high school side, Bacot spent his senior season at IMG Academy, where he helped lead his team to a GEICO National Championship after averaging 12.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while shooting 62.0 percent from the field. In his final season of AAU basketball, he averaged 11.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, 1.4 steals and shot 58.6 from the field on his way to MVP honors. He also helped lead his Team Takeover EYBL squad to a Peach Jam Championship.

D’Angelo Russell is the only other player to win a Peach Jam Championship and a GEICO National Championship in the same year. When you add in the Team USA gold medal, Bacot has a set of accomplishments that no other player in history can claim.

The Experience

With all his accolades coming into college, Bacot arrived at UNC with a lot of hoopla surrounding his name. His freshman season was not quite the splash that many expected; however, it was still very promising. Bacot started all 32 games and his 8.3 rebounds per game was sixth overall in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Taking into account his 1.1 blocks per game, Bacot was one of only eight freshmen in Division I to post those kinds of numbers.

In Year 2, however, Bacot showed more of what he could do, as North Carolina had a lot of depth in the post. Playing beside Bacot were preseason ACC Player of the Year Garrison Brooks, eventual first round NBA draft pick Day’Ron Sharpe and 5-star recruit Walker Kessler.

Bacot separated himself from the pack as he became the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, while only playing the fourth-most minutes on the team. Bacot was one of only three ACC players to average at least 12 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, and when you look deeper into Bacot’s numbers, you can why the analytics love him.

The Deep Dive

For starters, of players who played in 25 or more games, Bacot was one of only three players in the Atlantic Coast Conference who had a PER over 29. Of those who are back in 2021-22, Bacot was fourth in the ACC with 1.126 points per possession in the half court. Bacot’s 3.2 offensive rebounds per game was tied with Moses Wright of Georgia Tech for second in the conference last year.

Diving a little deeper into the stats, Bacot was the only player in the ACC with an Offensive Rating above 127 and Defensive Rating below 96. Adding in his Player Efficiency Rating above 29, Bacot becomes one of only three players in Division I – joined by Gonzaga’s Drew Timme and Liberty’s Blake Preston – who finished the season with those marks.

Coming into the 2021-22 season, everyone is looking at Timme and Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn as potential first team All-Americans. Bacot joined Cockburn and Timme as the only players last season in D-I to average at least 12 points and shoot over 68 percent from the field, so he could be on his way to joining those two.

The Upshot

Armando Bacot is the epitome of a tough guy in the paint — a throwback to the late 80s, early 90s post player. He is very strong, standing 6-foot-10 and weighing 245 pounds with a reported 7-foot-1 wingspan. On the block, Bacot has great hands and good feet. He has shown that he can play with his feet on the baseline or as a dive man in pick and roll situations. Bacot is limited with what he can do off the bounce or facing the basket. That said, he has great feel with his back to the basket and creates a big target on the block. He gets low and has go-to and counter moves, going over both shoulders.

Bacot had struggles from the free throw line coming into North Carolina, but he has shot 65.5 percent from the line his first two seasons in Chapel Hill. Bacot has attempted just a single 3-point shot in his first two seasons at UNC.

While he lacks elite pop and lateral quickness, Bacot has always been a good-to-elite rebounder. Along with the stats already listed, he also led the NBPA Top 100 camp in rebounding and has averaged 13.6 rebounds per 100 minutes during his two seasons with North Carolina basketball. Bacot has great anticipation on the boards. He does his work early and wedges his body between his man and the rim. He high points the ball with a very strong grip and keeps the ball high.

What They Said

“I can’t tell you how much better Armando is going to be next year. He was fantastic for us. He led the team in rebounding and scoring last year. I look for him to be ACC Player of the Year next year. He’s that good. And he’s really working hard on his ball-handling. Really working hard on being able to be a player out on the perimeter.”

-North Carolina Basketball Head Coach Hubert Davis on Armando Bacot



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