No. 16 North Carolina ready for fresh start vs. College of Charleston

NCAA Basketball

The offseason probably felt particularly long for North Carolina because the past season was so disturbing for the Tar Heels.

Now it’s a chance to start anew for No. 16 North Carolina, which is coming off its worst season under Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, when it takes on visiting College of Charleston on Wednesday night at Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

“We’re anxious to see how we’re doing,” Williams said. “We had a season last year that definitely left a bad taste in our mouths.”

That strange campaign of unsatisfactory results meant North Carolina ended up with a 14-19 record.

North Carolina played in one of the final games of the 2019-20 college season, but it wasn’t because things went well. It was a second-round ouster in a loss to Syracuse in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament nightcap — the last game in that event because the rest of the tournament was cancelled the next day due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It might not take long for the Tar Heels to recover once the new season begins.

North Carolina forward Garrison Brooks, a 6-foot-10 senior, is the ACC Preseason Player of the Year. Brooks posted 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season, and his 53.5 percent shooting from the field ranked second best in the conference.

In addition to that production, Brooks has bolstered his leadership role. He has become more vocal as the new season approaches.

“I think that’s something I’ve done that’s really going well for me and the team this year,” Brooks said.

The Tar Heels look for bigger contributions from returning players Leaky Black and Andrew Platek in the backcourt and Armando Bacot in the lane.

For the third year in a row, the Tar Heels are set to begin a season with a freshman as the starting point guard. Caleb Love follows Coby White and Cole Anthony from the past two seasons — and both those players became first-round NBA Draft picks after one college season. Freshman RJ Davis also will be in the mix with Love.

“They’ve been on the court a lot together and they will also spell each other,” Williams said, “so it’s something that’s going to have to play out.”

College of Charleston will look to continue its history of contending for postseason bids. The Cougars, who play in the Colonial Athletic Association, posted a 17-14 record last season.

Beginning the season against a high-profile opponent should be a good gauge for College of Charleston.

“We are extremely excited about the challenges and opportunities that our nonconference schedule presents us,” Cougars coach Earl Grant said. “These types of battles will prepare us for our conference season as well as games in March.”

Gone from the Cougars is guard Grant Riller, who was a three-time All-CAA first-team selection. Riller was selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.

Senior guard Brevin Galloway is an All-CAA preseason second-team choice as the team’s leading returning scorer at 11.3 points per game. He also led the Cougars in steals (69) and was second in assists (55) last season.

Look for Payton Willis, a graduate transfer who started 25 games for Minnesota last season, to be a factor. The guard was second in 3-pointers (57) and assists (53) for the Gophers a season ago.

Also added to the College of Charleston roster as a graduate transfer is 6-8 forward Lorenzo Edwards, who was a starter in 20 games for Saint Joseph’s last season.

“He adds value to our team with his maturity and experience,” Grant said. “Lorenzo is a skilled passer and can make perimeter shots.”

North Carolina guard Anthony Harris, who is recovering from last season’s knee surgery, is making progress but won’t play in the opener, Williams said.

–Field Level Media

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