Basketball players are always among the biggest men on campus at North Carolina, both in size and stature.

Unfortunately for coach Hubert Davis, there aren’t any true big men on campus right now.

It’s not that his 2024-25 team is devoid of height. Junior Jalen Washington is 6-10. Graduate Jae’Lyn Withers and sophomore Zayden High are 6-9. So is incoming freshman James Brown.

The problem is that none of the 4 provide the kind of classic low post presence the Tar Heels need to fill the rebounding and defensive void left by the departure of Armando Bacot.

Washington is a “stretch 4” whose offensive skills are far more advanced than his defense. Withers is a crafty veteran capable of playing inside but whose slender 215-pound frame puts him at a disadvantage against bigger opponents. High is incredibly raw while Brown may or may not be ready to make an immediate contribution.

The situation has sent Davis scurrying to the transfer portal.

Along with every other coach in America.

Or so it appears.

The seemingly high demand for serviceable bigs has made identifying the veteran free agents capable of filling the 1 gaping hole on UNC’s roster considerably easier thus far than actually landing one.

The Tar Heels have swung and missed almost as much as the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber. And he’s well on his way to leading the majors in whiffs for the 3rd straight year.

Tennessee’s Janos Aidoo and Kentucky’s Adou Thiero have committed to Arkansas. Arizona’s Oumar Ballo is going to Indiana, Yale’s Danny Wolf to Michigan and Kentucky’s Aaron Bradshaw to Ohio State.

Sunday, another priority target got scratched off UNC’s list when Rutgers’ Clifford Omoruyi announced his decision to join Alabama only hours after completing an official visit to Chapel Hill.

So what now?

The situation isn’t quite as desperate as those prone to overreaction are making it out to be on social media. Though the talent pool of available bigs is getting shallower, there are still several viable options for Davis to pursue.

And it’s not as if the Tar Heels need someone to come in and match Bacot’s scoring numbers.

With the return of ACC Player of the Year RJ Davis and backcourt mates Elliot Cadeau, Seth Trimble, along with the addition of Belmont transfer Cade Tyson and the arrival of 5-star freshman Ian Jackson, UNC should have plenty of offensive firepower on the perimeter and wing.

All it needs now is someone to help make up for the physical toughness, the interior defense and the 19-plus rebounds per game lost with the absence of Bacot and early-NBA Draft entry Harrison Ingram.

It looks as if the next man up on Davis’ wish list is Ven-Allen Lubin. Published reports have the UNC coach reaching out to the former Vanderbilt power forward, whose coach was Jerry Stackhouse.

A 6-8, 230-pound junior who played his 1st season at Notre Dame, Lubin averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the Commodores in 2023-24. He’s a former 4-star prospect with a 7-1 wingspan and plenty of untapped potential.

Other potential transfer possibilities include New Mexico’s JT Toppin, who is going through the NBA Draft process, Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins, Samford’s Achor Achor and Utah State’s Great Osobor.

But what happens in the remote possibility that UNC misses on them all?

It’s not necessarily the end of the world.

Washington still has plenty of upside and can take a giant leap forward with the extended playing time he figures to get next season. High also figures to improve in his 2nd full season in the program, provided he can learn to defend without fouling.

If worse comes to worse, Davis could always commit to a “5-out” look in which the center position is eliminated, creating plenty of open space in the lane for dribble penetration and frequent 3-point opportunities.

It’s a strategy similar to the one that helped Alabama beat UNC in the Sweet 16 on the way to the Final Four last season. And it could be a good fit for the Tar Heels with the return of RJ Davis and the abundance of backcourt talent on their roster.

But there are also disadvantages to the alignment.

As the Crimson Tide learned in its national semifinal loss to eventual champion UConn – and UNC could too if it continues to strike out on the portal – going small can become a matchup problem against teams with strong inside games.

A big problem.