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North Carolina’s Armando Bacot returning after NCAA title-game run

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-National Championship-Kansas vs North Carolina

Apr 4, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot (5) is helped off the court by assistant coach Sean May (right) after sustaining an apparent injury after a play against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half during the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four championship game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina big man Armando Bacot is returning for his senior season after the Tar Heels fell a game short of winning an improbable national championship.

He announced his decision in a social-media video nine days after the Tar Heels lost to Kansas in the NCAA title game in New Orleans.

“This year’s experience showed me that I do not want to miss the chance to do it again next season,” Bacot said.

Considered a potential second-round NBA draft prospect, the 6-foot-10 junior’s post presence was critical to the eighth-seeded Tar Heels reaching a record 21st Final Four in coach Hubert Davis’ debut season.

He averaged a team-high 16.3 points and ranked third nationally in rebounding (13.1). His national-best 31 double-doubles tied Navy star and eventual No. 1 overall NBA draft pick David Robinson (1986) for the NCAA single-season record. And he became the first player with six double-doubles in a single NCAA Tournament.

Bacot is on pace to become UNC’s career rebounding leader, needing 219 - a total he has passed in each of his three seasons and more than doubled as a junior - to overtake Tyler Hansbrough (1,219).

“Getting to the final game and getting so close lit a fire inside of him to achieve that goal more than ever,” Davis said in a statement. “He feels he can still get better and improve on parts of his game to put himself in a position to have a long and successful NBA career. And he feels this is the best place for him to do that.”

Bacot will also have the opportunity to continue cashing in on his fame after the NCAA allowed college athletes to profit on their name, image and likeness (NIL). That included endorsements with Maryland-based Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, availability for Cameo personalized video messages and T-shirts.

Bacot suffered an ankle injury late against rival Duke in the national semifinals and was hobbled throughout the Kansas loss, finishing with 15 points and 15 rebounds.

“On the court we got so close this year. I know there are no guarantees,” Bacot said, adding: “My Carolina story isn’t finished just yet. Next season starts right now.”