By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina returned to the No. 6 spot it held three weeks earlier in the AP Top 25 women’s basketball poll and is on the highest five-week poll run in 14 seasons.
The Tar Heels (9–1), after three decisive non-conference home wins, are ranked No. 8 or higher for the fifth consecutive week for the first time since the program’s remarkable late 2000s run.
Over five seasons, UNC was No. 8 or better for 73 consecutive weeks, from Feb. 7, 2005, until Jan. 19, 2009. During that stretch, Carolina was No. 1 for five weeks in 2006 (Jan. 30, Feb. 6 and Feb. 27–March 13) and never was ranked lower than No. 4 in the 2006–07 season.
Carolina won four consecutive ACC titles (2005–08) and went to two consecutive Final Fours (2006 and 2007) during that run.
The Tar Heels fell from No. 6 after suffering their only loss to now No. 4 Indiana 87–63 on Dec. 1. That defeat only dropped UNC to No. 8, and it moved up to No. 7 last week before advancing another spot this week.
UNC benefitted after No. 5 Notre Dame (9–1) won Sunday at Virginia Tech (10–1) 63–52 to drop the Hokies from No. 6 to No. 8.
Voting Carolina the highest at No. 4 is Mitchell Northam of WUNC, the only North Carolina-based voter. Jeff Linder of the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Lindsay Schnell of USA Today voted the Tar Heels No. 5, the same spot both voted for them last week when that represented the highest ballot spot for UNC.
Jeff Linder of the Cedar Rapids Gazette voted UNC No. 11 and is the only voter who doesn’t have the Tar Heels in the top 10.
Ten voters have the Tar Heels No. 6, four have them No. 7, four have them No. 8 and six have them No. 9.
Next for the Tar Heels is No. 19 Michigan (10–1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2) in Charlotte at the Jumpman Invitational. In their only game last week, the Wolverines, whose rank didn’t change, beat Appalachian State 77–49.
Two teams that the Tar Heels beat to win the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland are still highly ranked but didn’t have their ranks change: No. 14 Iowa State (8–2), which lost to the Heels 73–64, and No. 16 Oregon (9–1), which UNC defeated 85–79.
N.C. State (11–1) moved up from No. 8 to No. 7 after home wins over Davidson (81–47) and Clemson (77–59).
Carolina point guard Deja Kelly is seventh in the country and second in the ACC in assists-to-turnover ratio at 3.1 and is eighth in the ACC in scoring (15.4 points per game) \. Guard Eva Hodgson is 14th in the country and second in the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage at 51.09%.
Alyssa Ustby (top photo) is fourth in the ACC in rebounding (9.1 per game), and ninth in scoring (14.3 points per game).
Carolina is third in the ACC in scoring average (80.8 points per game; 19th in the country) and opponent scoring average (58.3, 38th) and second in scoring margin (22.5, 18th). UNC is second in the league in opponent field goal percentage (35.6%).
The Tar Heels lead the ACC in rebounding margin (9.7, 29th in the country) and turnover margin (+5.7). UNC is second in the league in rebounding (43.8 per game; 28th in the country), offensive rebounding (14.8, 34th), defensive rebounding (29.0, 41st) and rebounding margin (9.7, 29th). They are third in the ACC in steals per game (9.28).
AP Top 25
|Rank||Team||Change||Poll points (1st-place votes_|
|1||South Carolina (11-0)||—||700 (28)|
|3||Ohio State (11-0)||—||627|
|5||Notre Dame (9-1)||—||594|
|6||North Carolina (9-1)||+1||529|
|7||North Carolina State (11-1)||+1||514|
|8||Virginia Tech (10-1)||-2||481|
|14||Iowa State (8-2)||—||341|
|25||St. John’s (11-0)||—||27|
Others receiving votes:bMarquette 24, Virginia 21, Louisville 20, Villanova 11, Texas 5, Rice 4, Duke 3, Kansas State 3, Columbia 3, Nebraska 2.
Same non-league foes
Michigan will be the fifth non-conference school to face Carolina’s women’s and men’s basketball teams this season. The Tar Heels have swept two, split one and been swept by one. They both faced JMU on Nov. 20. Michigan will be the fourth school to meet both teams in the same city on successive days, although they played Iowa State in different Portland arenas.
|Opponent||Women’s games||Men’s games|
|UNCW||W 64–42 Dec. 7 (H)||W 69–56 on Nov. 7 (H)|
|James Madison||W 76–65 on Nov. 20 (R)||W 80–64 on Nov. 20 (H)|
|Iowa State||W 73–64 on Nov. 24 (P)||L 70–65 on Nov. 25 (P)|
|Indiana||L 87–63 on Dec. 1 (R)||L 77–65 on Nov. 30 (R)|
|Michigan||Tuesday (C)||Wednesday (C)|
|9||Wednesday||W, 91–59||Jackson State||Home||1–0|
|16||Wednesday||W, 93–25||South Carolina State||Home||3–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 76–65||James Madison||Harrisonburg, Va.||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|27||Sunday||W, 73–64||No. 21 Iowa State||Portland||6–0|
|December||ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|1||Thursday||L, 87–63||No. 2Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||6–1|
|16||Friday||W, 89–47||USC Upstate||Home||9–1|
|20||Tuesday||L, 76–68||No. 12 Michigan||Charlotte||9–2|
|ACC season begins|
|29||Thursday||L, 78–71||No. 19 |
|Home||9–3, 0–1 ACC|
|1||Sunday||L, 68–65||No. 11 |
|Blacksburg, Va.||9–4, 0–2 ACC|
|5||Thursday||L, 62–58||Miami||Coral Gables, Fla.||9–5, 0–3 ACC|
|8||Sunday||W, 60–50||No. 10 |
|12||Thursday||W, 70–59||Virginia||Charlottesville, Va.||11–5, |
|15||Sunday||W, 56–47||No. 22 N.C. State||Home||12–5, |
|19||Thursday||W, 61–56||No. 9 Duke||Home||13–5, |
|22||Sunday||W, 70–57||Georgia Tech||Home||14–5, |
|26||Thursday||W, 72–57||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||15–5, |
|29||Sunday||W, 69–58||Clemson||Clemson||16–5, |
|2||Thursday||W, 73–62||Virginia||Home||17–5, |
|5||Sunday||L, 62–55||Louisville||Louisville||17–6, |
|9||Thursday||7 p.m.||Syracuse||Syracuse||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|12||Sunday||Noon||Boston College||Home||ACCNX (ESPN3)|
|16||Thursday||8 p.m.||No. 22 N.C. State||Raleigh||ACCN|
|19||Sunday||4 p.m.||Wake Forest||Home||ACCN|
|23||Thursday||8 p.m.||No. 11 |
|26||Sunday||Noon||No. 9 Duke||Durham||RSNs|
|1–5||Wednesday–Sunday||TBA||TBA||Greensboro||ACCN Wed.-Sat.; final on ESPN or ESPN2|
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications