Lucas: Simple Math – University of North Carolina Athletics
Link to story by Adam Lucas
Maybe we take Armando Baco for granted.
Heading into Saturday morning’s game against Notre Dame, it looked like Bacot was having a pretty good season. Then you checked the numbers.
The big man is just leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring, rebounds and offensive rebounds, and he’s fourth in field goal percentage. In other words, ACC Player of the Year type numbers.
Then he came out against the Fighting Irish and showed exactly how he’s doing it. This wasn’t one of those games where Bacot hung around the basket, beat everyone for some offensive rebounds and scored on some layups. This was a nice window into what his full arsenal has become. All he did was score a game-high 21 points with 13 rebounds, stats that suggest exactly what you suspected while watching the game – Bacot was the best player on the court.
That’s something the Tar Heels sometimes forgot during the early weeks of the season, including back-to-back games against Portland and Iowa State when he totaled just 12 tackles.
Through the first eight games of the season — the stretch before missing the Virginia Tech game with an injury, a contest that is starting to feel like the dividing line of this season — he averaged 9.6 shots per game as Carolina went 5-3. . But in the last seven games, he’s averaging 14.4 field goal attempts per game, including 17 against Notre Dame. Not coincidentally, the Tar Heels are 6-1 in those games.
“I took a lot of shots,” Bacot said on the Tar Heel Sports Network after the game. “And when I hit a lot, I hit a good amount too.”
He’s right, you know. Like his game, it’s not that complicated: when he gets more, he does more.
With 21 on Saturday, he has now scored at least 20 points in five straight games for the first time in his career. What is the context for this statistic? Well, Tyler Hansbrough did it. But here’s a list of other players from the Roy Williams era who didn’t: Marcus Paige, Tyler Zeller, Sean May, Brice Johnson, Harrison Barnes. These are five of the most consistent and reliable scorers in Carolina’s modern era; none were that consistent.
“I worked hard to get the ball where I want,” Bacot said. “Caleb, RJ and everybody is doing a good job of getting me the ball and playing through me.”
“He’s working harder and playing harder,” Hubert Davis told Jones Angell on THSN. “He’s really running the floor a lot better. In transition, he’s getting a lot of points on deep post catches. In the half court, he’s doing his job early. He’s working extremely hard to catch the ball where wants and when he gets it there, he’s very effective at scoring, whether it’s shooting or drawing a foul and getting to the free throw line.”
Bacot almost got a taste of it when Notre Dame brought in freshman crush Dom Campbell, whose primary move seemed to be playing as physically as possible. Bacot almost single-handedly fouled Campbell after seven minutes, scoring behind and through him practically at will. “I don’t see many guys as strong as me,” Bacot said. “It was a lot of fun playing against a physical guy.” Perhaps the most significant stat of the day: Bacot drew seven fouls and the entire rest of the Carolina team combined to draw seven fouls.
Notre Dame’s inability to match up defensively with Bacot required them to use frequent double teams. It was then that he was able to display perhaps the most improved pitch of his game. Turnovers were a problem in that opening eight game, as he committed 27 of them. But he has just 11 since then, a testament to both where the Tar Heels are getting the ball and how he’s handling traffic.
On Saturday, he deftly dribbled off double teams on at least two separate occasions, once finding RJ Davis for an open jumper and then feeding Puff Johnson — who had one of his best games off the bench of Carolina – for a three-pointer.
As Bacot’s profile grows, so will the frequency of double teams — including, of course, Tuesday night in Charlottesville, where the double is a key aspect of Virginia’s defense. Even now, as a fourth-year player who can reasonably dream of seeing his jersey in the rafters at the Smith Center, he’s still improving.
“He’s gotten better at managing the double team,” Davis said. “He’s been working in practice to get more comfortable making a double-team pass and he did a great job of that today. Earlier in the year, I don’t think he could have made some of those passes. “
He has also improved defensively. It was Bacot’s ability to stay with the Irish’s smaller players on the perimeter that allowed Davis to be a game-changer on defense as he adjusted in the middle of the game and guided the Tar Heels to turn everything from one to five. . After Notre Dame started the game getting good looks, that shift slowed their offense, with Bacot either shadowing Nate Laszewski — who has been a tough cover for Carolina in recent meetings — or staying with a holder smaller of the ball for a time long enough for him. force a bad shot.
In addition to his improvement, he is still rewriting some important Carolina records. Saturday’s win moved Bacot past Sam Perkins for second on the all-time Tar Heel fumble recovery list. He now trails Tyler Hansbrough by just 50 boards (both Hansbrough and Perkins required more career games to reach their total than Bacot).
When that total was relayed to him, he nonchalantly replied, “Should be able to do that in three or four games.”
The remarkable thing about the statement was that it seemed completely reasonable.