Five bold predictions for UNC basketball in 2022-23 season

North Carolina basketball enters the 2022-23 college basketball season with hopes of ending it with a national championship.

The Tar Heels are the top-ranked team in several preseason polls, including the USA TODAY Sports poll, and were voted the favorite to win the ACC.

With four starters back from a squad that made a run to the national championship game, UNC is hoping to write its own redemption story in March. The Tar Heels begin that quest Monday against UNCW (9 p.m., ACC Network) in the regular-season opener at the Smith Center.

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Here are five bold predictions for the 2022-23 Tar Heels.

Caleb Love will be ACC Player of the Year 

Fifteen Tar Heels have finished a season as the ACC Player of the Year. Double-double machine Armando Bacot was voted the preseason favorite to become the program’s 16th player to earn that honor, but I’m rolling with Caleb Love to make the jump and get his name on that list.

Justin Jackson won ACC Player of the Year in 2017, but Ty Lawson (2009) was the last guard to win the award for the program. Throughout the offseason, Love has stressed the importance of becoming more efficient with his shot selection and decision making.

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Love won’t lose his ability to knock down long-range shots, but an increased focus on getting more opportunities at the rim will take the junior guard’s game to another level. He needs to take advantage of a free-throw percentage (84.4) that ranks fifth in program history.

I think Love builds on his marvelous March with more points, assists and rebounds per game this season – and a better field-goal percentage.

Caleb Love is one of four returning starters for UNC basketball, which enters the season as the preseason favorite to win the national championship.
Caleb Love is one of four returning starters for UNC basketball, which enters the season as the preseason favorite to win the national championship.

Carolina wins 17 ACC games

The Tar Heels went 16-2 in the 2018-19 season. With a 20-game schedule, I think UNC does one better with 17 league wins this season.

Carolina opens its ACC schedule Dec. 4 at Virginia Tech and closes with a three-game stretch that could ultimately decide the regular-season title race. The Tar Heels host Virginia on Saturday, Feb. 25, before making the trip to Florida State the following Monday, Feb. 27.

UNC closes the regular season March 4 at the Smith Center against rival Duke. The Tar Heels will celebrate their incredible run to a 33rd regular-season championship that night.

Five players will average double figures 

The Tar Heels haven’t had a team with five double-figure scorers since their national championship season in 2008-09.

They were close to accomplishing that feat last season with Armando Bacot (16.3 points per game), Caleb Love (15.9 ppg), Brady Manek (15.1) and RJ Davis (13.5) leading the way. Dawson Garcia averaged nine points in 16 games before leaving the program.

With Manek gone, Northwestern transfer Pete Nance enters the fold as the likely fifth starter and fourth player to average double-digit points. Last season, Nance averaged 14.6 points with an average of 27 minutes per game for the Wildcats.

The wild card is finding a fifth player to provide a scoring punch. If healthy, junior wing Puff Johnson seems like the perfect candidate. He averaged 3.1 points per game last season, but closed the year with 11 points in the national championship.

After having three games with double figures as a sophomore, Johnson will blow by that as a consistent double-figure scorer this season.

D’Marco Dunn will be key reserve

With several players sitting out in UNC’s lone exhibition game, Dunn nabbed a spot in the starting lineup. The former Fayetteville star enters his sophomore season with a chance to earn significant minutes as a key player off the bench.

Following UNC’s win against Johnson C. Smith, head coach Hubert Davis discussed Dunn’s growth and ability to stack good plays and good practices. He arrived in Chapel Hill known for his smooth shooting stroke, but his on-ball defense has vastly improved and impressed Davis.

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Those traits, along with his ability to play under control, will give Dunn the chance to take a major step forward as a sophomore.

Tar Heels cut down nets in Houston 

The last time UNC won the national title during a season in which it was ranked first in the preseason was 2008-09.

That’s also the last time the AP’s preseason favorite cut down the nets.

It might not seem like a bold prediction to say UNC will win the national title, but the preseason favorite simply hasn’t gotten it done that often. After all, it’s called March Madness for a reason.

Despite the stress of a tournament where one bad performance can send you home, I think the Tar Heels have more answers than any other team in the nation.

With a slew of scoring options, a deeper bench and a better ability to defend, I think UNC joins Houston, UCLA and Kentucky at the Final Four. The Tar Heels will beat the Cougars in the national championship.

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at or @RoddBaxley on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: UNC Basketball: Five bold predictions for 2022-23 season