By R.L. Bynum
After being unranked for 15 consecutive weeks, North Carolina returned to the AP Top 25 at No. 25, thanks to the Tar Heels’ impressive road upset of Duke.
UNC (23–5) was ranked No. 19 in the preseason poll and No. 18 on Nov. 15 but fell out of the rankings after losing to Purdue and Tennessee in the Hall of Fame Classic in Uncasville, Conn. The Tar Heels earned a return with their historic victory to ruin Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final Cameron Indoor Stadium game.
After their 94–81 loss to Carolina, the Blue Devils fell three spots to No. 7. No other ACC teams are ranked, although Notre Dame received votes. This marks the first time multiple ACC teams have been ranked since Nov. 15.
This was the first week UNC has received votes in the AP poll since Dick Vitale voted the Tar Heels No. 24 on Jan. 17, as the only one to include them on a ballot. It’s the first time that UNC has appeared on more than one ballot since Dec. 13, when the Tar Heels got the 27th-most poll points.
Carolina ends the longest unranked streak since the Tar Heels were out of the poll for 20 consecutive weeks at the end of the 2001–02 season (the 8–20 season) and the first three polls of the 2002–03 season (when UNC went 19–16).
Ranking Carolina the highest at No. 15 is Marcus Fuller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota. Luke DeCock of The News & Observer has UNC the next-highest at No. 20 and David Thompson of the Fayetteville Observer voted the Heels No. 25.
Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsFan.com is one of 44 voters who didn’t include UNC in their poll.
The Tar Heels have won five consecutive games since losing at home to Pittsburgh on Feb. 16 and have victories in seven of their last eight games since losing at home to Duke on Feb. 5.
Carolina is the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament at Brooklyn and will play in a quarterfinal game Thursday night at 9:30 (ESPN or ESPN2).
UNC will play the winner of Wednesday’s 9:30 game between No. 6-seed Virginia (18–12) and the survivor of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. first-round game. That final game of Tuesday’s first day of the event matches No. 11-seed Louisville (12–18) against No. 14-seed Georgia Tech (12–19).
AP Top 25
Others receiving votes: Boise State 49, South Dakota State 32, Memphis 26, San Diego State 24, LSU 22, Loyola Chicago 16, Ohio State 16, Seton Hall 9, San Francisco 9, Rutgers 8, Alabama 7, Notre Dame 4, Vermont 3, Davidson 1, Longwood 1. (Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes.)