What’s Armando Bacot going to do? He’s not about to let David McCormack run roughshod over his North Carolina Tar Heels when they take on the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship.
Bacot gutted out an ankle injury to help close the game out against Duke, and he’s ready to do the same against Kansas in the March Madness finale.
Armando Bacot is a major piece of the puzzle for the North Carolina Tar Heels
“He’s ready to play tomorrow night,” North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis told the media on Sunday, per ESPN.
He was talking about Bacot, who has been an integral part of UNC’s run to the National Championship.
It has been smooth sailing for Bacot until now, and he’s proven to be one of the best big men in college basketball over the past few weeks. He’s 6-foot-10, 240-pounds but somehow plays even bigger than his listed height and weight. He’s averaged 16.3 points per game this season for the Tar Heels and 15.4 in the tournament, but he’s an absolute monster on the boards, and that’s arguably his most significant contribution to the team.
Bacot grabbed 21 rebounds in the win against Duke, which (shockingly) was his second-highest rebound total of the tournament. He notched 22 the game before against Saint Peter’s.
He’s averaging 16.8 rebounds per game in March Madness.
Bacot’s injury put a scare into North Carolina
Considering just how important he is to the team’s success, Tar Heel nation undoubtedly held its collective breath when Bacot went down late in the second half of the win over Duke.
He was playing defense on a driving Paolo Banchero when he slid and stepped onto the foot of his teammate, Leaky Black, which caused the big man’s ankle to turn. He went down hard and had to be carried to the bench by his teammates.
As the game went on, the television feed showed Bacot slowly running to the locker room to test the ankle under the watchful eye of the training staff. Per ESPN, he told the media after the game that he was initially in so much pain that he didn’t think he’d be able to come back, but a pep talk from UNC trainer Doug Halverson gave him the push he needed.
“I thought 100 percent I was out for the rest of the game … and then something hit me like ‘I’m in the greatest college basketball game of all time.’ So I just had to thug it out,” he said, according to Josh Graham of WSJS in North Carolina, perhaps providing one of the best college basketball quotes of all time.
In total, Bacot missed less than a minute and a half of game time, and he played big for the Tar Heels the rest of the way before fouling out with 46.7 seconds to go.
He was clearly hobbled, though, which left his status for the National Championship game in question. Even if he could gut it out, how much can he play?
Bacot is toughing it out to try to stop Kansas big man David McCormack
UNC met with the media on Sunday and Bacot relayed that he’s been treating the ankle ever since the game against Duke ended. The good news is that according to his head coach, the X-rays are negative and the swelling on the ankle isn’t too much.
Bacot is going to give it a go, but according to him, what choice does he have?
“We don’t have another big man,” Bacot said, “so I don’t have a choice.”
Kansas is going to be trotting out 6-foot-10, 250-pound center David McCormack, who was an absolute monster down low for the Jayhawks in their Final Four win over Villanova. He notched 25 points and nine rebounds on 10-of-12 shooting from the field. It was inarguably the best game of his season in the biggest game of his career.
“He was our guy from the jump,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the game, according to Sports Illustrated. “I’ve said all along he’s the one guy on our team that can get 15 and 10 just by being a presence. Tonight he got 25 and nine. He was fabulous.”
If MCCormack can go out and get Kansas 15 and 10 just by stepping on the court, North Carolina is going to have to counter with an automatic big man of thier own, and that’s what makes Bacot so important to the Tar Heels in this matchup.
“I feel like the best big in the country,” Bacot said.
“We don’t have any other big men. If I don’t play, who knows what Dave McCormack may do?”
Stats courtesy of ESPN.
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