Carolina preseason No. 1 for the 10th time in program history

By R.L. Bynum

Coach Hubert Davis said that he wants his players to avoid the outside noise just like last year, but the difference is that this year’s noise tells them how good they are.

That noise just got louder.

Carolina is ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP Top 25 men’s basketball poll, the 10th time the Tar Heels have been top-ranked entering a season. It marks the 111th week in AP poll history that UNC has been No. 1.

This breaks a tie with Duke for most times as a preseason No. 1. UCLA is third at eight, followed by Kentucky with six. Arizona, Indiana, Kansas and Michigan are tied with three. It’s the 21st season that Carolina has been ranked No. 1 at some point.

“Last year, the outside noise didn’t think we had a chance,” Davis said last week at ACC Tipoff in Charlotte. “The outside noise this year thinks we do have a chance. The things that I have talked to the players and the team a number of times daily is that there’s negative noise, and that’s criticism, and there’s positive noise, and that’s praise. Even though they come from different directions, they’re still noise.”

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Gonzaga is No. 2, followed by Houston and Kentucky. Duke is No. 7 and Virginia is No. 18. UNC got 47 of the 62 first-place votes, with the Bulldogs getting 12.

It’s the 22nd time that an ACC team has been preseason No. 1, but the first since Duke in 2017–18. Those Blue Devils lost to Kansas 85–81 in a regional final.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for our team’s potential but the only way for us to reach any of our dreams and goals will be to improve each and every day by our commitment to preparing, practicing and playing to the best of our ability,” Davis told The Associated Press.

It gives Carolina two teams ranked No. 1, with the men’s basketball team joining the field hockey team.

The three North Carolina voters — C.L. Brown of The News & Observer, Jordan Crammer of WNCN and David Thompson of the Fayetteville Observer and Gannett — voted UNC No. 1. Brown has Duke No. 7, Virginia No. 14 and Florida State No. 21. Crammer has Duke No. 5, Virginia No. 17 and Miami No. 23. Thompson has Duke No. 6, Virginia No. 16 and Miami No. 20.

History heightens expectations considering that UNC has made the Final Four four of the previous nine times as the preseason No. 1 team, winning NCAA titles in 1982 and 2009. It’s the first time the Tar Heels have been atop the preseason poll since 2015–16, when they made the NCAA championship game.

“To focus on what is real and our preparation, our practice, at the end of the day we’ll be happy with the results at the end of the season,” said Davis, whose team beat Duke in a national semifinal last season before losing to Kansas in the national championship game.

UNC hopes to repeat the feat of the early 1980s, when the Tar Heels lost to Indiana in the 1981 national championship game and was preseason No. 1 the next season when they beat Georgetown in the 1982 national championship game.

After losing to Villanova in the 2016 national championship game, UNC was preseason No. 6 before beating Gonzaga in the 2017 national championship game.

Since there is no AP poll after the NCAA tournament, Carolina was only ranked in the first five polls last season, peaking at No. 14 in Week 1 before falling out of the ranking after being No. 17 in Week 5. The Tar Heels got the 32nd-most poll points in last season’s final AP poll, with ESPN’s Dick Vitale one of only seven voters to include UNC on their ballots.

Carolina, which has a 188–31 record as the AP No. 1 team, has won at least 32 games five of the last six times it was atop the preseason poll.

The first time Carolina was ranked No. 1 was in Week 8 of the 1956–57 season, when the Tar Heels went 32–0 and won the national championship. Although there was no preseason poll for the 1957–58 season, Carolina was No. 1 in the first two polls on Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.

After being ranked No. 1 in Week 12 of the 1958–59 season, Carolina wasn’t No. 1 again until the 1977–78 preseason poll. Carolina was in the top 5 many weeks from 1966 to 1974 but UCLA almost always was No. 1.

UNC has six games on its schedule (No. 13 Indiana, No. 22 Michigan, No. 18 VIrginia twice and No. 7 Duke twice) against teams in the preseason Top 25 and the potential to face two others at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland (No. 16 Villanova in the second game of PKI and either No. 20 Alabama and No. 21 Oregon in the third game).

UNC as preseason No. 1

1977–78 — 23–8; lost to San Francisco 68–64 in the first round
1981–82 — 32–2; beat Georgetown 63–61 in the NCAA championship game
1983–84 — 28–3; lost to Indiana 72–68 in a regional semifinal
1986–87 — 32–4; lost to Syracuse 79–75 in a regional final
1993–94 — 28–7; lost to Boston College 75–72 in the second round
2007–08 — 36–3; lost to Kansas 84–66 in a national semifinal
2008–09 — 34–4; beat Michigan State 89–72 in NCAA championship game
2011–12 — 32–6; lost to Kansas 80–67 in a national semifinal
2015–16 — 33–7; lost to Villanova 77–74 in the NCAA championship game

AP Top 25

RankTeam
(first-place votes)
2021–22
record
Poll points
1North Carolina (47)29–101,532
2Gonzaga (12)28–41,479
3Houston (1)32–61,404
4Kentucky (2)26–81,364
T-5Baylor27–71,200
T-5Kansas34–61,200
7Duke32–71,168
8UCLA27–81,093
9Creighton23–121,060
10Arkansas28–91,026
11Tennessee27–8880
12Texas22–12844
13Indiana24–14745
14TCU21–13735
15Auburn28–6623
16Villanova30–8578
17Arizona33–4543
18Virginia21–14462
19San Diego State23–9394
20Alabama19–14281
21Oregon19–15260
22Michigan19–15229
23Illinois23–10215
24Dayton24–11170
25Texas Tech27–10122

Others receiving votes: Texas A&M 112, UConn 101, Miami 66, Purdue 56, Saint Louis 36, Michigan State 35, Florida State 32, Xavier 29, Wyoming 25, Ohio State 23, Iowa 13, Rutgers 4, Florida 3, USC 3, Virginia Tech 1, Memphis 1, Toledo 1, Notre Dame 1, UAB 1.

UNC schedule

DateMonth/dayTime/scoreOpponent/event
(current ranking)
LocationTV/record
October
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
November
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
Iowa State
Portland5–1
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
Consolation:
No. 18 Alabama
Portland5–2
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30Wednesday9:15 No. 11 IndianaBloomington, Ind.ESPN
December
4Sunday3 p.m.Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.ACCN
10Saturday3:15Georgia TechHomeESPN
13Tuesday7 p.m.The CitadelHomeESPN2
CBS Sports Classic
17Saturday3 p.m.Ohio StateNew YorkCBS
Jumpman Invitational
21Wednesday7 MichiganCharlotteESPN
30 Friday TBAPittsburghPittsburghACCN
January
4Wednesday9 p.m.Wake ForestHomeACCN
7Saturday11:30 a.m.Notre DameHomeESPN2
10Tuesday9 p.m.No. 5 VirginiaCharlottesvilleESPN or ESPN2
14Saturday2 p.m.LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.ESPN
17Tuesday7 p.m.Boston CollegeHomeRSN
21Saturday5 p.m.N.C. StateHomeACCN
24Tuesday9 p.m.SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.ESPN
February
1Wednesday7 p.m.PittsburghHomeACCN
4Saturday6:30No. 8 DukeDurhamESPN
7Tuesday7 p.m.Wake ForestWinston-SalemESPN or ESPN2
11Saturday2 p.m.ClemsonHomeESPN or ESPN2
13Monday7 p.m.MiamiHomeESPN
19Sunday1 p.m.N.C. StateRaleighESPN
22Wednesday9 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN or ESPN2
25Saturday6 or 8No. 5 VirginiaHomeESPN
27Monday7 p.m.Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.ESPN
March
4Saturday6 or 6:30No. 8 DukeHomeESPN
ACC Tournament
7–11Tuesday-SaturdayTBATBAGreensboroTBA
If tickets for home games are available, you can purchase them here. ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network. RSN means the game airs on regional sports networks (in many cases, Bally Sports but also MASN, NESN and Yes Network.)

Photo courtesy of the ACC

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