By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina’s women’s basketball team, off to its best start in 11 years, moved up one slot to No. 24 in the latest AP Top 25 poll released Monday afternoon.
The Tar Heels (11–0) are one of five remaining unbeaten teams in the country out of 356 teams, along with No. 1 South Carolina (12–0), Nebraska (12–0), Arizona (10–0) and Colorado (11–0). It’s the longest unbeaten streak since the Tar Heels won their first 14 games in the 2010–11 season.
Carolina moved up two spots to No. 18 in the latest coaches poll, which was released Tuesday.
It’s not the best start of Coach Courtney Banghart’s career. She was USWBA national coach of the year after her 2014–15 Princeton team won its first 31 games.
The only teams in the 10 slots ahead of Carolina in the previous poll to lose last week were then-No. 18 (now No. 22) South Florida, which fell 61–53 to unranked Mississippi, and then-No. 15 Iowa (now No. 21), which lost 74–73 to unranked IUPUI.
Carolina swapped spots with Ohio State (9–2), which beat San Diego State 66–54 in its only game last week. The Tar Heels, who rolled to an 83–47 home win over Alabama State in their only game last week, have one more poll point after the Buckeyes had two more poll points in the previous poll.
Other ACC teams in the poll are No. 3 Louisville, No. 5 N.C. State, No. 15 Duke, No. 16 Georgia Tech and No. 17 Notre Dame.
Ranking the Tar Heels the highest at No. 16 is broadcaster and former N.C. State player Debbie Antonelli.
Mitchell Northam of WUNC, the only North Carolina-based voter, has State No. 5, Duke No. 14 and Carolina No. 18. Kelly Gramlich of ACC Network has State No. 4, Duke No. 17 and UNC No. 20.
Carolina leads the country in scoring margin, winning by an average margin of 33.2 points.
UNC leads the ACC in scoring offense (fifth in the country, 83.6 points per game), rebounding margin (8th in the country, 12.3), turnover margin (seventh in the country, 8.18) and 3-point-percentage defense (11th in the country, 22.5%) and is second in scoring defense (10th in the country, 50.5 points.)
Sophomore guard Deja Kelly leads the Tar Heels in scoring at 16.8 points per game and is third in the ACC. Sophomore wing Alyssa Ustby leads UNC in rebounding at 9.2 per game, third in the ACC, and is eighth the ACC in scoring at 14.6 points.
UNC is No. 3 in the NET rankings and No. 6 in the Massey Ratings against what Massey rates as the 110th-toughest schedule in the country. The competition ramps up quickly for Carolina, which faces only ACC opponents for the rest of the regular season.
In their ACC opener on Dec. 19, the Tar Heels rallied to win 76–73 at Boston College, which has the highest ranking of any UNC opponent so far, according to the NET rankings (No. 48) and Massey (No. 56).
Closely behind the Eagles is Syracuse (No. 56 in NET and No. 57 on Massey), Carolina’s opponent at 4 p.m. Thursday (ACC Network) at Carmichael Arena.
After facing Clemson (106 Massey, 142 NET) at 6 p.m. Sunday in Chapel Hill (ESPN3), Carolina faces its toughest test of the season with its visit to No. 5 N.C. State (2 NET, 4 Massey) at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 6 (ACC Network).
AP Top 25
Others receiving votes: Oklahoma 78, Colorado 59, Florida Gulf Coast 55, Nebraska 45, DePaul 22, Missouri State 2. Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes.
UNC season statistics
day, time, TV
|Location||Opponent (current ranking)|
|9||92–47 win, 1–0||Home||N.C. A&T|
|14||89–33 win, 2–0||Road||Charlotte|
|17||89–44 win, 3–0||Home||Appalachian State|
|21||79–46 win, 4–0||Road||TCU|
|26||72–59 win, 5–0||Bimini, Bahamas||X — VCU|
|27||58–37 win, 6–0||Bimini, Bahamas||X — Washington|
|December (5–0, 1–0 ACC)|
|1||82–76 win, 7–0||Road||Y — Minnesota|
|5||93–47 win, 8–0||Home||James Madison|
|12||107–46 win, 9–0||Home||UNC Asheville|
|19||76–63 win, 10–0, 1–0 ACC||Road||Boston College|
|21||83–47 win, 11–0||Home||Alabama State|
|30||Thursday, 4, ACC Network||Home||Syracuse|
|2||Sunday, 6, ACCNX||Home||Clemson|
|6||Thursday, 8, ACCN||Road||No. 5 N.C. State|
|9||Sunday, 6, ACCN||Home||Virginia Tech|
|16||Sunday, 1, RSN||Road||No. 17 Notre Dame|
|20||Thursday, 6, ACCNX||Home||Virginia|
|23||Sunday, noon, ACCN||Road||No. 16 Georgia Tech|
|27||Thursday, 7, ACCNX||Road||No. 15 Duke|
|30||Sunday, TBA, ESPN or ACCN||Home||No. 5 N.C. State|
|3||Thursday, 8, RSN||Road||Wake Forest|
|6||Sunday, noon, ACCN||Home||Miami|
|10||Thursday, 6, ACCNX||Home||Pittsburgh|
|13||Sunday, 1, ACCNX||Road||Virginia Tech|
|17||Thursday, 6, RSN||Home||No. 3 Louisville|
|20||Sunday, noon, RSN||Road||Florida State|
|24||Thursday, 7, ACCNX||Road||Virginia|
|27||Sunday, TBA, ESPN2 or ACCN||Home||No. 15 Duke|
RSN — regional sports networks; X —Goombay Splash; Y — Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications