By R.L. Bynum

Before North Carolina’s rough 14-19 finish last season, the Tar Heels were ranked No. 9 in the preseason AP college basketball poll and were up to No. 5 by Nov. 18.

This season, with the influx of freshman talent to go with preseason ACC player of the year candidate Garrison Brooks, the prospects for UNC are much better. Despite that, Carolina is only ranked No. 16 in the preseason poll that came out Monday.

Clearly, many voters want to see how the Tar Heels rebound from that forgettable season.

It’s UNC’s lowest preseason ranking since it the Tar Heels were left out of the first poll before the Tar Heels’ 23-8 2005–06 season

The preseason poll ends an unranked streak of 14 consecutive weeks, which was the longest since being left out of the poll 20 straight weeks from Nov. 20 of the 2001–02 8–10 season until Dec. 3 of the 2002–03 19–16 season.

UNC has been in the preseason poll in 50 of the last 55 seasons since 1966. This is the 924th time the Tar Heels have been ranked in the AP poll, more than any other school. Kentucky is second at 919. Carolina has been ranked at some point in 64 of the 73 seasons of AP poll history.

In yet another strange 2020 twist, the release of the AP preseason poll comes before the ACC releases the schedule. That is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. For a reminder of what we already know about the schedule, read this story.

Gonzaga is preseason No. 1 for the first time in program history, followed by Baylor, Villanova and Virginia. No. 4 is Virginia’s highest preseason rank since the 1982–83 season.

Other ACC teams in the poll are No. 9 Duke and No. 21 Florida State.

Ranking UNC the highest at No. 11 is John Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald, followed by John Feinstein of National Public Radio, who had the Tar Heels No. 12.

Ten voters left UNC off their ballot, including WRALSportfan.com’s Lauren Brownlow.

Luke DeCock of The News & Observer voted UNC No. 18 and Ethan Joyce of the Winston-Salem Journal voted UNC No. 19.

The Tar Heels remember the pain of last year and expect better results this season. Much of that hope comes from a talented group of freshmen who give them plenty of talent and much more depth with the return of Brooks, Andrew Platek and Leaky Black.

That freshman group includes five-star point guard Caleb Love (6-foot-4, 195 pounds), five-star forwards Day’Ron Sharpe (6-11, 265) and Walker Kessler (7-1, 245) and four-star guards RJ Davis (6-0, 160), Puff Johnson (6-8, 190) and Kerwin Walton (6-5, 205).

Lost from last year’s team are Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce and Jeremiah Francis.

AP preseason Top 25

Others receiving votes: LSU 146, Memphis 69, Florida 69, Alabama 50, Indiana 48, Louisville 41, Richmond 40, Stanford 14, Providence 9, Saint Louis 8, Auburn 8, San Diego State 6, Connecticut 6, BYU 4, Loyola Chicago 3, Seton Hall 2, UNC Greensboro 1, Northern Iowa 1.
Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes.

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