UNC basketball’s Brady Manek has become the talk of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
An inadvertent (or totally on purpose, depending on your point of view) elbow to the face of Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan completely changed the direction of a Round of 32 matchup between the Bears and Tar Heels.
Carolina eventually held on to win in overtime, but Manek’s ejection overshadowed UNC’s upset of the No. 1 team in the East Regional.
But who exactly is Brady Manek, and how did he end up in Chapel Hill? Here’s everything you need to know about the Heels’ now-infamous heel.
Brady Manek landed at UNC as a graduate transfer
Manek was a four-year player at Oklahoma from 2017-18 through ’20-21 and a significant part of those Sooners teams.
As a 6-foot-9 stretch forward, he played in 32 games and started 26 his freshman season, averaging 10.2 points on 38.3% shooting from deep.
He started all 34 games as a sophomore, upping his production to 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds on 46.9% shooting and 35.8% from three on nearly five attempts per game.
His best statistical year in Norman came during his junior campaign. Manek started all 31 games he played in and averaged 14.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, knocking down 38.0% of his six three-point attempts per night.
After a dip in production and minutes as a senior, he transferred to Chapel Hill and immediately became an important part of coach Hubert Davis’s first season in charge of the program.
The fifth-year senior has been one of the Tar Heels’ best players this season
Carolina was up by 25 points when Manek was ejected against Baylor. UNC almost blew that lead in a 10-minute span.
All the momentum the Heels had up to that point disappeared, and the game changed completely.
But it wasn’t just momentum that slipped away when Manek was kicked off the floor. One of North Carolina’s best players departed as well.
The fifth-year senior started 23 games this year for the Tar Heels, averaging better than 15 points and almost six rebounds. He shot a career-high 39.5% from three on a career-high 6.1 attempts a game.
But Manek was even more crucial down the stretch of the regular season and has continued to be come tournament time.
Carolina was 11-2 over its final 13 regular-season games. Per ESPN, Manek scored 20 points or more three times during that span, including a 20-point, 11-rebound performance in an upset win over Duke.
He had 21 points and seven rebounds in an ACC Tournament win over Virginia and had 28 points and 11 boards in the NCAA Tournament opener against Marquette.
Prior to his ejection against Baylor, Manek already had 26 points and was 4-of-8 from three in 28 minutes.
The Harrah High School product has been critical to the Tar Heels’ late-season resurgence and, even with an ejection, has played a massive role in North Carolina’s run to the Sweet 16.
Manek will need to stay hot in order for UNC to continue its run
RJ Davis had a game-high 30 points for Carolina in the win over the Bears. Had Manek stayed in the game, he would have surely eclipsed that total.
It’s no coincidence that the 23-year-old is playing his best basketball as the Tar Heels play theirs.
UNC faces No. 4 seed UCLA in the Sweet 16. The Bruins have a star point guard in Tyger Campbell and two versatile wings in Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. UCLA also has Final Four experience from last year’s tournament.
Manek will likely match up with Jaquez, the Bruins’ second-leading scorer. But Jaquez is just 6-7, which means the 6-9 Manek should be able to shoot over the top when he has the opportunity.
It’s not a bad matchup for the Tar Heels’ forward — the biggest issue will be defending Jaquez on the perimeter. Staying out of foul trouble will be essential for both Manek and UNC.
But the former Sooner has been arguably the Tar Heels’ best player over the past two months. Carolina isn’t continuing its run toward April without Manek staying hot.
Or not getting ejected.
All statistics unless otherwise noted courtesy of Sports Reference.