UNC Basketball: Senior Class Rankings
This week, we took a look back at the North Carolina Tar Heels 2021-22 men’s basketball season and handed out some notes. We will have reached the end of it with one last senior post, or an adjacent senior graduate transfer in one case.
Today we have two Tar Heels who have been integral to the season and run to the National Championship game, whose efforts this season will be remembered for years to come.
After a few seasons in which much of the fanbase watched him with skepticism and frustration, Black showed exactly how good and important he was this season.
His contributions on the defense side are well known and well regarded, having been named to the All-ACC Defensive Team last season. His ability to keep up and down the positional spectrum helped a ton during the late season and NCAA Tournament run. His most famous contributions at this end of the track will likely come down to his performances over AJ Griffin in both UNC wins over Duke. After Griffin left during the first encounter between the teams, Black got the mission on him within two seconds and stopped him twice. The importance of this work can easily be demonstrated by simply looking at the final grades. While Duke ran away with Game 1 as Griffin caught fire, UNC won the last two meetings, picking up two of the most famous wins in program history.
While Black didn’t (and never really did before) get out and put up 20 points consistently, he also probably had his best season on the offensive end. While scoring just 4.9 points per game, Leaky shot the best percentage (46.6%) he’s had since he was a freshman while being used with much more parsimony.
Black being more selective on the attacking side and having a clearer role helped enormously. He was much more efficient and posted an offensive score of 122.4, by far the best of his career. He still took hits when he needed to keep opposing defenses honest, and occasionally knocked down big shots, like his two threes in the Final Four against Duke.
UNC wouldn’t have turned things around and entered this NCAA Tournament without Leaky Black becoming the player he has. Now, although he is in the Seniors section of our ranking positions, we will be able to see him for one more year.
Oh man, what can you even say about Brady Manek? He may have only been Tar Heel for one season, but his contributions have made him someone who will be loved by UNC fans for life.
Manek finished the season as Carolina’s second-leading scorer, scoring 15.1 points per game while shooting 40.3 percent from three. After Dawson Garcia returned home to be close to family and Manek’s role expanded, those numbers rose to 17.0 PPG with a rating of 43.2% out of three.
After things started to change after the WakeForest defeat, Manek dropped 20 points seven times, with UNC being the winners in six of those games. UNC had a similar record in games where it knocked down at least four threes, with its ability to stretch the defense also helping to open things up for the rest of the team.
Like Black and much of the rest of the roster, Manek has been at his best down the stretch, helping the Heels in the NCAA Tournament. He had a massive performance against Duke in Cameron, during which he used a color slogan that would make several appearances over the rest of the season.
His importance was particularly evident in the Round of 16 win over Baylor. Manek scored 26 points in 28 minutes, helping UNC take a big lead over the Bears. He was then ejected questionably on Flagrant 2 for an errant elbow, and the Heels melted down and nearly lost the game.
His defense left something to be desired at times, but by the end of the season he was also putting in crucial performances to that end. He did an admirable job against Paolo Banchero in both wins over Duke.
Years in the future, people look at Manek’s UNC career and just write it off as a pretty decent year, but anyone who watched him in Carolina Blue will know how much he meant to that ever-beloved team.
He hasn’t done enough for a full year, but kudos to the only person listed as a senior on the list: walk-on Ryan McAdoo. As is tradition, he started on Senior Night and overall provided three seasons of service to UNC basketball.
As we get another year from Leaky, Black and Manek will forever go down in UNC lore for their efforts this season as part of the “Iron Five.”