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Armando Bacot Is Having An Historic ACC Career

Look at the UNC players he’s already surpassed.

NCAA Basketball: James Madison at North Carolina
 Nov 20, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot (5) grabs a rebound as James Madison Dukes guard Vado Morse (4) and forwards Alonzo Sule (25) and Julien Wooden (22) defend in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina’s superior sports information office brought fresh attention recently to the sterling rebounding supplied by senior big man Armando Bacot, not only this year but throughout his career.

Bacot dropped to second in the league in rebounding (11.1) after UNC’s loss at Indiana after leading in 2021-22 (13.1). To highlight his productivity on the boards UNC provided a list of the top 10 in total rebounds in school history.

The company is impressive at a school where rebounding prowess is a priority. The Heels led the league in rebound margin 27 times over the years, including 22 times since 1991 and the last 7 seasons in a row. (This season they ranked sixth as December dawned.)

Four of the other top 9 Carolina career rebounders besides Bacot were honored as an ACC Player of the Year. Billy Cunningham did it in 1965, Mitch Kupchak in 1976, Antawn Jamison in 1998, and Tyler Hansbrough in 2008. Some argued Bacot, and not Wake’s transitory transfer, Alondes Williams, deserved to be the 2022 POY – the ACC exclusionary voting membership gave Williams 41 votes to 31 for Bacot — but that’s old news.

Overall Bacot’s cumulative rebounds through eight games this year (1,090) were good enough to lift him to fourth place in Tar Heel history, with approximately two dozen more outings likely remaining in 2022-23. That assumes the 6-11 Bacot, plagued by ankle woes and other injuries, remains healthy.

Duke freshman Kyle Filipowski ranked fifth in the ACC after nine games with 9.1 rebounds per outing, best among the Blue Devils.

Bacot, a Richmond native, has a shot at finishing fifth among all-time ACC rebounders, in a group with or ahead of Clemson’s Tree Rollins (1,311), Duke’s Shelden Williams (1,262) and Mike Gminski (1,242). UVa’s Ralph Sampson at No.4 is probably out of reach (1,511 in 132 games).

What Bacot’s career rebound total fails to adequately communicate is his efficiency. As is the case with many gross totals, a sense of proportion is missed unless placed in perspective, adding a context of minutes or games played. Production obviously is related to opportunity, and in that sense Bacot shines even more brightly.

Minutes played couldn’t be used as a gauge where Dean Smith’s program was concerned. For much of his tenure (1962-97) Smith avoided including minutes played (or starts) in North Carolina team stats. Such information had to be gleaned from box scores, but was absent from Smith’s formulations.

So we’re left with game appearances as a comparative measure. Using that standard Bacot ranked second among Carolina’s career rebound leaders through the end of November (10.09 per game), barely ahead of Antawn Jamison (9.88).

Bacot’s persistence on the glass may be irritating when facing your favorite team, but you can’t help but admire his success.

While we’re on the subject of rebounding, the UNC per-game pacesetter by a wide margin was Billy “The Kangaroo Kid” Cunningham. The Brooklyn product averaged 15.4 rebounds per game in an era when freshmen were ineligible, varsity careers lasted only three years, and Carolina failed to once secure the ACC’s single NCAA tournament bid.

Cunningham’s prowess was no fluke of the times. By the mid-60s team field goal percentages and thus production of missed shots had changed notably from the ACC’s earliest days, more or less rising to match today’s production. Thus Cunningham enjoyed no special edge in the availability of errant shots.

Top Per Game Rebounders In UNC History
(Minimum 1,000 Career Rebounds, Through Nov.30, 2022)
Total Player, Years Games Per Game
1,062 Billy Cunningham, 1962-65 69 15.39
1,090 Armando Bacot, 2019- 108 10.09
1,027 Antawn Jamison, 1995-98 104 9.88
1,168 Sam Perkins, 1980-84 135 8.65
1,219 Tyler Hansbrough, 2005-09 142 8.58
1,006 Mitch Kupchak, 1972-76 119 8.45
1,097 George Lynch, 1989-93 140 7.84
1,003 Brad Daugherty, 1982-86 135 7.43
1,052 Kennedy Meeks, 2013-17 144 7.31
1,035 Brice Johnson, 2012-16 148 6.99