By R.L. Bynum
The level of respect for the Carolina men’s basketball program soared after the Tar Heels’ run to the national championship game.
It’s still rising.
When ESPN came out with its first way-too-early preseason Top 25 in early April, Carolina checked in at an impressive No. 5.
But after an April full of good news for Coach Hubert Davis, ESPN’s latest list, released Tuesday and put together by Jeff Borzello, joins Gary Parrish’s CBS Sports list in putting the Tar Heels No. 1.
It’s not a big surprise after four UNC starters — RJ Davis, Caleb Love, Leaky Black and Armando Bacot — all announced that they would be back next season. In addition, UNC is expected to welcome a transfer after Kerwin Walton’s departure opened up an available scholarship for Hubert Davis to offer.
After JD Notae and Au’Diese Toney decided to enter the NBA draft, Arkansas went from No. 1 on ESPN’s early-April list to No. 6 (CBS has the Razorbacks No. 3).
Duke dropped from No. 6 to No. 7 on the ESPN list (No. 11, according to CBS) after Trevor Keels entered the NBA draft along with the expected departures of Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr., Mark Williams and AJ Griffin. Keels could still return, though, and Jeremy Roach will be back.
Houston holds at No. 2 on both lists, but Kentucky moved up from No. 7 to No. 3 on ESPN’s list (No. 4, according to CBS) after Oscar Tshiebwe became the first consensus national player of the year to return for another college season since Tyler Hansbrough.
UCLA fell from No. 3 to No. 4 on ESPN’s list (No. 6, according to CBS) after Johnny Juzang and Peyton Watson entered the NBA draft, although Jaqime Jaquez Jr. will be back for another season with the Bruins.
Kansas dropped from No. 4 to No. 8 on ESPN’s list (the Jayhawks have the same spot on CBS’ list) with the departures of Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Remy Martin, Mitch Lightfoot and Jalen Coleman-Lands, in addition to possibly losing Christian Braun.
There are no other ACC teams on CBS’ list, but ESPN has Virginia at No. 21 and Miami at No. 22.
Photo via @UNC_Basketball