Eight of 11 ‘way-too-early’ rankings have UNC in top 5, many suggest Tar Heels can return to Final Four

By R.L. Bynum

National college basketball observers like North Carolina’s chances next season if the way-too-early preseason rankings are any indication, with some saying that the Tar Heels have the talent to return to the Final Four.

The consensus is that the Tar Heels should be around No. 5.

Of the 11 rankings listed below, the Tar Heels were No. 2 in two of them, No. 3 in one, No. 4 in one and in No. 5 in four. Only two lists, from 247Sports and bustingbrackets.com, have UNC outside of the top 10 at No. 12.

Gary Parrish of CBS and Patrick Stevens of The Washington Post each had UNC No. 2.

Parrish comments that as long as Armando Bacot and Caleb Love return, which is expected, “Hubert Davis will have a real chance to make back-to-back Final Fours.” Stevens’ ranking also assumes both return and suggests a bigger role for Puff Johnson.

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Arkansas and Kentucky are the most common No. 1 pick, with each at the top of four lists. UCLA is No. 1 on two lists and one has Houston at the top.

Carolina is ahead of Duke in seven of the 11 rankings, with the Blue Devils’ highest prediction No. 4 by Stadium’s Jeff Goodman (who has UNC No. 3) and Joe DiTullio of gamehaus.com (who has UNC No. 5.)

According to the DraftKings Sportsbook, Duke is the favorite to win the NCAA championship at +900, followed by North Carolina (+1,100), Kansas (+1,200), Kentucky (+1,200), Gonzaga (+1,400) and Arkansas (+1,400).

Way-too-early preseason rankings

Here are the teams picked No. 1 and the ACC teams listed on 11 way-too-early rankings, in order from best UNC ranking to worst:
Gary Parrish of CBS:
No. 1 UCLA
No. 2 North Carolina
No. 9 Duke
Patrick Stevens of The Washington Post:
No. 1 Kentucky
No. 2 North Carolina
No. 8 Duke
Jeff Goodman of Stadium:
No. 1 Arkansas
No. 3 North Carolina
No. 4 Duke
Seth Davis of The Athletic:
No. 1 UCLA
No. 4 North Carolina
No. 5 Duke
Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News:
No. 1 Kentucky
No. 5 North Carolina
No. 8 Duke
No. 20 Virginia
No. 24 Notre Dame
Jeff Borzello of ESPN:
No. 1 Arkansas
No. 5 North Carolina
No. 6 Duke
Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News:
No. 1 Kentucky
No. 5 North Carolina
No. 8 Duke
No. 20 Virginia
No. 24 Notre Dame
Joe DiTullio of gamehaus.com:
No. 1 Kentucky
No. 4 Duke
No. 5 North Carolina
No. 19 Florida State
Kevin Sweeney of Sports Illustrated:
No. 1 Arkansas
No. 6 Duke
No. 8 North Carolina
Kevin Flaherty of 247Sports:
No. 1 Arkansas
No. 6 Duke
No. 12 North Carolina
Tristan Freeman of bustingbrackets.com:
No. 1 Houston
No. 8 Duke
No. 12 North Carolina
No. 22 Florida State

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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