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.
“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.”
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.”
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 18 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||9:15||No. 11 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||ESPN|
|4||Sunday||3 p.m.||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||ACCN|
|13||Tuesday||7 p.m.||The Citadel||Home||ESPN2|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||3 p.m.||Ohio State||New York||CBS|
|4||Wednesday||9 p.m.||Wake Forest||Home||ACCN|
|7||Saturday||11:30 a.m.||Notre Dame||Home||ESPN2|
|10||Tuesday||9 p.m.||No. 5 Virginia||Charlottesville||ESPN or ESPN2|
|14||Saturday||2 p.m.||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||ESPN|
|17||Tuesday||7 p.m.||Boston College||Home||RSN|
|21||Saturday||5 p.m.||N.C. State||Home||ACCN|
|24||Tuesday||9 p.m.||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||ESPN|
|4||Saturday||6:30||No. 8 Duke||Durham||ESPN|
|7||Tuesday||7 p.m.||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||ESPN or ESPN2|
|11||Saturday||2 p.m.||Clemson||Home||ESPN or ESPN2|
|19||Sunday||1 p.m.||N.C. State||Raleigh||ESPN|
|22||Wednesday||9 p.m.||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|25||Saturday||6 or 8||No. 5 Virginia||Home||ESPN|
|27||Monday||7 p.m.||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||ESPN|
|4||Saturday||6 or 6:30||No. 8 Duke||Home||ESPN|
Top photo via courtesy of the ACC/”GameDay” photo courtesy of ESPN