How much did ESPN pay Cole Anthony to return?

North Carolina is dead. They are 10-12 and 94 in the NET. The Tar Heels are 4-11 since leaving Atlantis after Thanksgiving. UNC beat Oregon and Alabama there but ever since they’ve had bad losses to Wofford, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Pitt again and Boston College. They lost their one superstar that kept UNC watchable, Cole Anthony. The son of Greg Anthony was lost on December 8. At that point we all knew the Tar Heels were in trouble without the star who is projected to be a top-five pick.

Anthony is really fun to watch. He came out with a splash opening night, dropping 34 points on six 3-pointers vs. Notre Dame. He was doing it all for the Heels. Knocking down multiple 3-pointers per night, scoring 20 or more, recording a couple double-doubles and making some nice passes. Then the Anthony show came to an end.

They went 4-9 without Anthony. Their overall record was 10-10 and had an ACC record of 3-6. North Carolina was hovering near the 100 mark in the NET. It was a lost season.The college basketball Twitter community was already talking about what the Tar Heels have in store for next season because they had just announced the McDonald’s All-Americans.

But then Cole Anthony announced he was returning. The Tar Heels did just rattle off two in a row, Miami at home and at NC State. But still, with a 10-10 record and 3-6 in what is a horrible season for the ACC, the Heels have no chance at an at-large bid. But for some unknown reason, Anthony is coming back.

He’s obviously a competitor and wants to play basketball, but the guy was sidelined for six weeks and has already secured a spot in the top 10 of the NBA Draft. Why come back to a team that’s playing for a spot in the NIT?

Remember James Wiseman? You all probably forgot about that guy. He was the #1 recruit, being projected as the #1 pick and then he got suspended. He was supposed to return right about now for Memphis, but he chose to leave and start working out for the NBA Draft. No one really had an opinion. At that time, Memphis was a top-25 team. There were mixed feelings, but as we sit at the beginning of February and the Tigers are at the cut line, no one cares about where Wiseman is.

ESPN dropped the bag

Let’s say Anthony Edwards would’ve gotten hurt when Cole Anthony did. And he has the chance at coming back to Georgia. The Bulldogs are doing just as bad as the Tar Heels. No one would care if Edwards returned. But Anthony plays for a blue blood that has the biggest rivalry in college basketball. And ESPN, the mothership, has rights to those two games every year. One of their biggest marketing plugs is Duke vs. North Carolina.

ESPN remembers what happened in 2010. The Tar Heels lost by 10 in the first meeting at Chapel Hill and then got totally destroyed at Cameron. That couldn’t happen again this season. That was the first time under Roy Williams where the Tar Heels did not have a good season. Duke has been great under Coach K basically every single season that ESPN has been around.

ESPN knew if Cole Anthony wasn’t dressed for the Tar Heels, the game going to turn into a huge blowout quick and viewership was going to take a major hit. The Blue Devils have some stars. Without Anthony, UNC simply does not. What was College GameDay going to talk about if Anthony wasn’t going to play? They would all know Duke was going to dominate the entire game, but this is their winter baby. Duke vs. UNC is the reason people watch college basketball. And ESPN controls the game. Obviously they need a player who is going to be a star in the NBA playing in this game. He is incredible to watch and ESPN isn’t dumb.

If they want as much viewership as possible with UNC having a horrible season, Anthony needs to play. ESPN had to have stepped in and offered Anthony something on the side. I mean, the guy had a pretty major injury, all the NBA GMs love him because of his excellent play and who is father is. His college team will not get an at-large bid so why come back? Because ESPN needs you to prevent Duke vs. UNC from becoming a joke this season. That’s why. Well done mothership.