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Anthony lives up to hype for Tar Heels

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If you thought the preseason hype for freshman superstar Cole Anthony might be too much to live up to, Anthony has only worn the blue of Carolina for two games and he’s already accomplished something no other Tar Heel has ever done — consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. 

Anthony also broke the school record for points by a freshman in his debut against Notre Dame with 34. The previous mark was held by Rashad McCants (28). Anthony also added a team-high 11 rebounds and tied for the team lead with five assists. He then followed that performance up with 20 and 10 in a 78-62 road win over UNC Wilmington. 

Perhaps even more impressive is Anthony’s +45 plus/minus through two games, meaning UNC was an average of 22.5 points better with him on the floor, an indicator of how his presence makes his teammates better around him.

THIN ROTATION AFTER KEY INJURIES

Carolina opened the season down one key contributor as senior guard Brandon Robinson suffered an ankle injury in the exhibition game against Winston-Salem State. Then Armando Bacot left with about 11 minutes left in the first half against UNCW after taking an elbow to the face; he did not return due to concussion concerns. “We’d like him to play more than two minutes and 41 seconds,” Roy Williams said afterwards. “We’re pretty thin as it is.”

As Williams’ comment indicates, depth was already a concern coming into the season, as the Tar Heels are replacing four starters and the top five scorers from last year’s team, which went 29-7 (16-2 ACC) and earned a No. 1 seed.

Carolina is relying on five-star freshmen Anthony and Bacot as well as graduate transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce to fill that void, but growing pains are inevitable, and the preseason injury to the only senior only amplifies the need for rapid growth as the newcomers learn to play with one another.

Freshman guards Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris are also still rehabilitating injuries suffered in high school, so Carolina will be operating on a much tighter early season rotation than is typical for a Williams-coached team. Williams did indicate that he expects Harris to be available before long, which should at least allow Anthony to take an occasional breather.

PUFF JOHNSON COMMITS TO THE TAR HEELS

Depth is unlikely to be a problem next season, as Carolina has added a fifth commitment to the 2020 recruiting class, this time 6-foot-7 wing Puff Johnson from Phoenix (Arizona) Hillcrest Prep. Johnson is the younger brother of Cam Johnson, who led Carolina in scoring last season before becoming a first-round NBA draft pick. Like Cam, Puff has an exceptionally long wingspan (7-1) and is a terrific outside shooter, making him an excellent fit at Carolina overall and as the swingman in the 2020 class, which already includes two guards (Caleb Love and R.J. Davis) and two big men (Walker Kessler and Day’Ron Sharpe).

UNC’s 2020 recruiting class is now second nationally according to the consensus 247Composite rankings. Carolina still may not be done, as they continue to recruit a select few targets, most notably including top-ranked small forward Ziaire Williams (Chatsworth, California)

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

700. The season-opening win over Notre Dame was UNC’s 700th in regular-season ACC play. Carolina is the first program to win 700 regular-season ACC games, a full 50 games ahead of second-place Duke’s 650.

Jason Staples has covered college football since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter @DocStaples and check out more of his work at InsideCarolina.com.

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