By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina gave AP Top 25 women’s poll voters plenty of reasons to correct their error of a week ago when they dropped the Tar Heels out of the poll after seven consecutive weeks.
Add the fact that two teams ranked No. 21 or below lost and fell out of this week’s poll helped put UNC No. 24 this week after being ranked No. 20 two weeks ago.
The Tar Heels (16–4, 6–4 ACC) delivered one of those losses by winning at Duke 78–62 on Thursday. The Blue Devils (13–6, 4–5), who fell out of the Top 25 (with the 26th-most poll points) after being ranked No. 21 last week, also lost 77–65 Sunday to Louisville (18–2, 8–1), which moved up one spot to No. 4.
Mississippi was No. 24 but is now unranked after losing No. 1 South Carolina 69–40 and to No. 15 Georgia 62–52.
In the coach’s poll, which came out Tuesday, UNC fell one spot to No. 23.
The bigger picture, and much more important than rankings, is the progress of the program and the fight that the Tar Heels showed in Sunday’s 66–58 home loss to No. 3 N.C. State (19–2, 5–0).
“I think we’re about a top 15, 20 team in the country. If you’re looking at the body of work, which is what you’re supposed to do, and you’re getting your eyes on this team, I think that speaks for itself,” UNC coach Courtney Banghart said.
She pointed out that the losses at N.C. State and at No. 12 Georgia Tech (17–4, 8–2) were the only games when her team didn’t play well and UNC earned good wins over Virginia Tech (15–5, 7–2) and Duke.
“So there’s two games we didn’t play well,” Banghart said. “But they’ve all been ranked teams and we’ve had some good wins. I think we’re a really good basketball team and the story of us being young is well-told and it is a fact. But that doesn’t factor into the rankings. What factors in the ranking is body of work. And I like where we are.”
UNC is No. 5 in the NET rankings, a tool that the NCAA tournament selection committee uses when setting the field. The Tar Heels are No. 13 in the Massey Ratings and No. 24 on RealTimeRPI.com. In Charlie Creme’s last ESPN bracket projection on Friday, he has Carolina the No. 6 seed in the Greensboro Region and playing the first two rounds in Bloomington, Ind.
A big part of UNC’s recent success is sophomore Kennedy Todd-Williams, who has scored a career-high 15 points in three of the last four games. She’s scored in double figures in five consecutive games after doing that in only seven of UNC’s first 15 games.
The offense adds to her defense, which has always been stellar.
“It’s made all the difference. for sure,” guard Carlie Littlefield said. “When you have somebody who can get to the rim, slice the floor, get other people shots, beat everybody in transition, it totally changes the game, opens everybody else up. And, so, she’s just so fun to play with, not to mention her defense. I mean, her defense has been incredible all year. So there’s just combining that with what she’s giving us on the offensive end.”
WUNC’s Mitchell Northam, the only North Carolina-based AP voter, has State No. 2, UNC No. 18 and Duke No. 25.
Also in the poll from the ACC is Notre Dame, which stayed at No. 20.
AP Top 25
Others receiving votes: Duke 39, Ole Miss 23, Virginia Tech 22, DePaul 14, Florida 9, Nebraska 8, Arkansas 3, Creighton 1, Dayton 1, Gonzaga 1. (Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes.)
day, time, TV
|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 (6–0, 2–0 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||79–43 win, 12–0, 2–0||Home||Syracuse|
|January (4–4, 4–4 ACC)|
|2||81–62 win, 13–0, 3–0 ACC||Home||Clemson|
|6||72–45 loss, 13–1, 3–1||Road||No. 3 N.C. State|
|9||71–46 win, 14–1, 4–1||Home||Virginia Tech|
|16||70–64 loss, 14–2, 4–2||Road||No. 20 Notre Dame|
|20||61–52 win, 15–2, 5–2||Home||Virginia|
|23||55–38 loss, 15–3, 5–3||Road||No. 12 Georgia Tech|
|27||78–62 win, 16–3, 6–3||Road||Duke|
|30||66–58 loss, 16–4, 6–4||Home||No. 3 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. 4 Louisville|
|20||Sunday, noon, RSN||Road||Florida State|
|24||Thursday, 7, ACCNX||Road||Virginia|
|27||Sunday, TBA, ESPN2 or ACCN||Home||Duke|
X —Goombay Splash; Y — Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Photo via @UNC_Basketball