One of the biggest disappointments of this basketball season may be not being able to watch future top-10 draft selection Cole Anthony in the NCAA Tournament. Because, barring a miracle, Cole Anthony’s UNC Tar Heels will not be going dancing this year. A large part of that is due to Anthony’s extended injury-related absence, as the star freshman guard missed eleven games, a span in which the Tar Heels went just 4-7. They haven’t been dynamite with Anthony, going just 6-5 in those games, but UNC’s tournament chances dipped below 1% while Anthony was gone, and barring a miraculous run at the tail-end of their conference season, the Tar Heels will be fighting for a NIT bid the rest of the year.
Despite this, our March Impact Player Feature series will include Cole Anthony, as he is undoubtedly a star talent who can take over March, even if it’s not in the tournament we all wanted to see him in. Normally, blue bloods in the NIT have limited motivation to compete, but Cole Anthony should have plenty of personal motivation after missing the first half of the ACC season. He’s got a lot of opportunity for his draft stock to rise, and Anthony undoubtedly makes the Tar Heels a different team. He’s averaging 19.5 points per game, and, almost more impressive, he has nabbed 6.5 rebounds a game, including four games of eight or more. As a 6’3, 190-pounder, Anthony scraps for rebounds many of his size and position would not go for. Combined with his ability to get blazing hot from beyond the arc, Cole Anthony is an incredibly exciting talent.
Anthony burst onto the scene when the Tar Heels hosted Notre Dame in the opener, as he went 6-11 from 3 and 12-24 overall while pouring in 34 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in their win. As UNC started 5-0, he added in 28 and 20-point performances, along with a do-it-all 13-point, 7-rebound, 7-assist performance in a tight win versus Alabama. UNC started to slump, and they were 6-3 when Anthony went down with injury, and their spiral continued as they lost several games as heavy favorites, leading to coach Roy Williams calling them the ‘least talented group’ he has ever coached.
Anthony returned for the last two games, and although rust has been evident, he is still putting UNC on his back, albeit without much success yet as the Tar Heels have lost both games since his return. That’s hardly due to Anthony, however, who scored 26 points in his first game back and 16 points in a road top-10 match-up at Florida State.
Anthony is the type of shooter that can carry a team when he gets hot, so as he rounds back into form and UNC heads towards (hopefully) the NIT, it’ll be exciting to watch the star freshman put on his final clinic for NBA scouts as he skyrockets towards a lottery draft selection.