Bilas says that the massive UNC expectations won’t faze Hubert Davis

By R.L. Bynum

There might be pressure on Hubert Davis this season with four returning starters from a Final Four team, but Jay Bilas said he doesn’t think that will faze his former ESPN colleague.

During an ESPN press availability on Tuesday, Bilas said that Davis should have no trouble handling the expectations of being preseason No. 1 and the favorite to win the ACC.

“It’s funny, I don’t think Hubert feels pressure the way other people do. I’ve known Hubert a long time, and he’s one of the friends I value most,” said the former Duke player and assistant coach. “He’s an extraordinary human being. The things that Hubert says, if somebody else said it, you might roll your eyes. But when he says it, it’s so authentic and genuine, I trust it and believe it without question.”

Bilas, who has been an ESPN analyst since 1995 and worked with Davis for five seasons, says that he thinks there was more pressure on Davis last season when he replaced Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams.

Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas, working with Digger Phelps during a 2012 episode of ESPN’s “GameDay” in Storrs, Conn., were ESPN colleagues for five years and are still close friends.

“There was an adjustment period when you take a new job and a new role; he’s not immune to that,” Bilas said. “But he never wavered last year in what he thought was important and how he was going to do things, and I don’t think he’ll do that this year.”

Carolina begins the season at home Monday at 9 p.m. against UNCW (ESPN) as the preseason No. 1 team for a record 10th time.

“I don’t think this will faze him at all,” Bilas said. “He wanted those expectations. He wanted to build North Carolina back into the contender that it is, and to have people say, ‘hey, they’re the best team.’ ”

Bilas said that this season’s Tar Heels have no weaknesses and are better than last season because of improved depth and more experience.

He pointed out the pitfalls last season of UNC usually playing only six players, such as when Armando Bacot hurt his ankle at the Final Four or got into foul trouble in the home loss to Duke.

“It puts you in a bad spot,” Bilas said. “They’re not in that spot this year. They have a lot of quality players. That doesn’t mean everybody is going to play, but they have a number of players that can play.”

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Bilas said that better depth would make practices more competitive and the potential of heading to the bench a motivating factor. Davis may have had to leave players in games last season even when they made mistakes, but that might not happen this season.

“I think they’re in fantastic position,” Bilas said, adding that even the best teams can get upset early in the NCAA tournament, such as Gonzaga, which lost in the Sweet 16 last season. “It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but Carolina is poised — as long as everybody stays healthy — to have a great year.

He recognizes that losing Brady Manek and his ability to stretch the floor hurts UNC, but he said that adding Northwestern transfer Pete Nance should help fill that void.

“[Nance] is probably a better rebounder than Manek and equally as good a passer, if not better,” Bilas said. “Expecting him to deliver five or six threes in a particular game like Manek may not be realistic, but he can stretch the floor. To be able to plug him in there is a big get, I think, for Carolina.”


DateMonth/dayTime/scoreOpponent/event
(current ranking)
LocationTV/record
October
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
November
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
Portland5–1
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
Consolation:
No. 18 Alabama
Portland5–2
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30Wednesday9:15 No. 11 IndianaBloomington, Ind.ESPN
December
4Sunday3 p.m.Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.ACCN
10Saturday3:15Georgia TechHomeESPN
13Tuesday7 p.m.The CitadelHomeESPN2
CBS Sports Classic
17Saturday3 p.m.Ohio StateNew YorkCBS
Jumpman Invitational
21Wednesday7 MichiganCharlotteESPN
30 Friday TBAPittsburghPittsburghACCN
January
4Wednesday9 p.m.Wake ForestHomeACCN
7Saturday11:30 a.m.Notre DameHomeESPN2
10Tuesday9 p.m.No. 5 VirginiaCharlottesvilleESPN or ESPN2
14Saturday2 p.m.LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.ESPN
17Tuesday7 p.m.Boston CollegeHomeRSN
21Saturday5 p.m.N.C. StateHomeACCN
24Tuesday9 p.m.SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.ESPN
February
1Wednesday7 p.m.PittsburghHomeACCN
4Saturday6:30No. 8 DukeDurhamESPN
7Tuesday7 p.m.Wake ForestWinston-SalemESPN or ESPN2
11Saturday2 p.m.ClemsonHomeESPN or ESPN2
13Monday7 p.m.MiamiHomeESPN
19Sunday1 p.m.N.C. StateRaleighESPN
22Wednesday9 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN or ESPN2
25Saturday6 or 8No. 5 VirginiaHomeESPN
27Monday7 p.m.Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.ESPN
March
4Saturday6 or 6:30No. 8 DukeHomeESPN
ACC Tournament
7–11Tuesday-SaturdayTBATBAGreensboroTBA
If tickets for home games are available, you can purchase them here. ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network. RSN means the game airs on regional sports networks (in many cases, Bally Sports but also MASN, NESN and Yes Network.)

Top photo via courtesy of the ACC/”GameDay” photo courtesy of ESPN

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