North Carolina big man Armando Bacot, runner-up for ACC Player of the Year in 2021-22 and the star of the Tar Heels' roster that powered them to a national runner-up finish in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, announced Wednesday that he plans to return to Chapel Hill next season as a senior. Bacot was one of only 15 players in college hoops last season to average a double-double in both points and rebounds.

"On the court, we got so close this year," Bacot said in a social media video announcing his return. "I know there are no guarantees, but I want the opportunity to play in those big games, to keep Carolina on that national stage and to have the chance to do what Coach Davis has talked about since his first day on the job: to put another banner in the Smith Center. My Carolina story isn't finished just yet. Next season starts right now."

As a junior last season for the Tar Heels, Bacot averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game while improving from a Third Team All-ACC performer to a First-Teamer. Bacot led UNC to an 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament where he really blossomed into a bonafide star, averaging 15.3 points and 16.5 rebounds per game in an unlikely march to the national title game. 

Bacot played 38 minutes in UNC's 72-69 loss to No. 1 seed Kansas in the national championship game despite a bum ankle he turned two days previously in a Final Four win over rival Duke in which he scored 11 points and grabbed 21 boards. Against the Jayhawks, he still mustered 15 points and 15 rebounds before aggravating the ankle late.

The return of Bacot for North Carolina gives the school a legitimate preseason Player of the Year candidate for a team that can dare to dream big after a strong finish to the 2021-22 season. They're ranked No. 2 in Gary Parrish's Top 25 And 1 rankings based on the assumption that all but one star of the team's starting unit -- Brady Manek, who no longer has college eligibility -- will return to school again next season.