UNC slips in AP women’s poll ahead of two huge games this week vs. top-11 teams

By R.L. Bynum

North Carolina fell three spots to No. 22 in the AP Top 25 women’s poll heading into a challenging week that could go a long way toward determining if the Tar Heels will be first- and second-round hosts in the NCAA tournament.

UNC (19–8, 10–6 ACC) rebounded from Thursday’s 77–66 overtime loss at N.C. State with a convincing 71–58 home win Sunday over Wake Forest, led by Deja Kelly’s 24 points. The Tar Heels face No. 9 Virginia Tech at home at 8 p.m. Thursday (regional sports networks) and visit No. 11 Duke at noon Sunday (regional sports networks).

The Hokies (22–4, 12–4) have won six in a row and moved up two spots after beating Duke 61–45 on Thursday and finishing a regular-season sweep of N.C. State with a 75–62 home win Sunday.

The Blue Devils (23–4, 13–3), who share the ACC lead with No. 10 Notre Dame (22–4, 13–3), rebounded from losing to Virginia Tech with a 56–52 win Sunday at Virginia but fell two spots. The Irish’s rank didn’t change after beating Louisville 78–76 and Pittsburgh 83–43.

No. 22 ties for UNC’s lowest ranking of the season. The Tar Heels were also ranked No. 22 for two consecutive weeks, on Jan. 2 and Jan. 9.

Before Carolina’s win over the Deacons, ESPN projected the Tar Heels to be a No. 5 seed, and only top-four seeds are hosts for the first two rounds. Carolina is 25th in the NET rankings and 21st in the Massey Ratings.

Even if Carolina wins both games, it won’t earn a double bye in the ACC tournament. No women’s team without a double bye has won the title in the event’s history.

Carolina hopes junior wing Alyssa Ustby (lower-body injury) returns to the lineup. UNC coach Courtney Banghart said that Ustby remains “day-to-day.” She has missed the last five games. Fifth-year guard Eva Hodgson (upper-body injury) has missed the last eight games but isn’t expected back until next month.

Banghart called a matchup like Thursday’s senior night game with the Hokies “awesome.”


“We know them really well. They know us really well. It’s been one of the very best rivalries in the ACC since the years I’ve been here,” said Banghart, pointing out that her games against Virginia Tech have usually been close. “Our games are always very intense with them. I know our guys are ready for it and excited about it.”

The Tar Heels will seek to avenge a 68–65 New Year’s Day loss in Blacksburg when Georgia Amoore scored 24 points and six 3-pointers. Virginia Tech has won seven of the last nine meetings, but UNC rolled to a 71–46 win in Chapel Hill last season.

“They’ve got a lot of different things that they do well, just like we do,” Banghart said. “And that’s why these are two of the better programs, not only in our conference, but in the nation. We know that it’s a big week. And you’d rather be in big games than talking about them.”

On Sunday, Carolina will seek its second consecutive regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels held on for a 61–56 win in Carmichael Arena on Jan. 19.

The only other ranked ACC team is Florida State (22–7, 11–5), which moved up one spot to No. 23 after beating Syracuse 78–65 and Georgia Tech 80–66.

Ranking UNC the highest at No. 15 is Mitchell Northam of WUNC, the only North Carolina-based voter. He also was the only voter who had Indiana No. 1.

Nine voters left the Tar Heels off their ballots: Brice Cherry of the Waco Tribune-Herald, Danny Davis of the Austin American-Stateman, Davis Cloniner of The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., Jeff Linder of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Joe Vozelli of the Champaign News-Gazette, Kevin Trsolini of delawareonline.com, Lindsay Schnell of USA Today, M.A. Voepel of ESPN and Robert Cessna of the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

Other voters had Carolina No. 17 (Debbie Antonelli), No. 18 (Michelle Smith), No. 20 (4), No. 21 (5), No. 22 (4), No. 23 (1), No. 24 (1) and No. 25 (1).

AP Top 25

RankTeamChangePoll points
(1st-place votes0
1South Carolina (27–0)699 (27)
2Indiana (26–1)672 (1)
3Stanford (25–3)634
4UConn (24–4)+2585
5LSU (25–1)573
6Iowa (22–5)+1567
7Maryland (22–5)+1522
8Utah (23–3)-4507
9Virginia Tech (22–4)+2488
10Notre Dame (22–4)464
11Duke (23–4)-2416
12Michigan (20–6)340
13Oklahoma (22–4)+2336
14Arizona (21–6)+4322
15Villanova (23–5)-1296
16Ohio State (22–5)-3291
17UCLA (21–6)-1279
18Gonzaga (25–3)+2206
19Texas (21–7)-2186
20Iowa State (17–7)+2167
21Colorado (21–6)113
22North Carolina (19–8)-3100
23Florida State (22–7)+196
24UNLV (25–2)-178
25Illinois (20–7)29

Others receiving votes:

Middle Tennessee 29, South Florida 25, Oklahoma State 18, Creighton 14, North Carolina State 13, Florida Gulf Coast 7, Louisville 7, Tennessee 7, Marquette 3, Cleveland State 3, South Dakota State 2, Toledo 1, USC 1, Columbia 1, Illinois State 1, UMass 1, Ole Miss 1

ACC standings

No. 10 Notre Dame15–324–4
No. 11 Duke14–424–5
No. 9 Virginia Tech14–424–4
No. 23 Florida State12–623–8
No. 22 North Carolina11–720–9
N.C. State9–919–10
Boston College5–1315–16
Wake Forest5–1314–15
Georgia Tech4–1413–16

Thursday’s results
No. 9 Virginia Tech 61, No. 22 North Carolina 59
No. 10 Notre Dame 76, Georgia Tech 53
No. 23 Florida State 61, Wake Forest 60
Syracuse 85, Pittsburgh 55
Louisville 71, Miami 50
Clemson 79, Virginia 69
No. 11 Duke 77, N.C. State 62
Sunday’s results
No. 22 North Carolina 45, No. 11 Duke 41
No. 10 Notre Dame 68, Louisville, noon, ESPN3
Miami 84, Virginia 75
Boston College 73, Wake Forest 63
Clemson 74, No. 23 Florida State 61
N.C. State 68, Pittsburgh at 63
No. 9 Virginia Tech 65, Georgia Tech 52
End of regular season

(current ranking)
9WednesdayW, 91–59Jackson StateHome1–0
12SaturdayW, 75–48TCUHome2–0
16WednesdayW, 93–25South Carolina StateHome3–0
20SundayW, 76–65James MadisonHarrisonburg, Va.4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 85–79OregonPortland5–0
27SundayW, 73–64No. 17 Iowa State Portland6–0
DecemberACC/Big Ten Challenge
1ThursdayL, 87–63No. 2 IndianaBloomington, Ind.6–1
7WednesdayW, 64–42UNCWHome7–1
11SundayW, 99–67WoffordHome8–1
16FridayW, 89–47USC UpstateHome9–1
Jumpman Invitational
20TuesdayL, 76–68No. 18 MichiganCharlotte9–2
ACC season begins
29ThursdayL, 78–71Florida StateHome9–3, 0–1 ACC
1SundayL, 68–65No. 4
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Va.9–4, 0–2 ACC
5ThursdayL, 62–58MiamiCoral Gables, Fla.9–5, 0–3 ACC
8SundayW, 60–50No. 10
Notre Dame
1–3 ACC
12ThursdayW, 70–59VirginiaCharlottesville, Va.11–5,
2–3 ACC
15SundayW, 56–47N.C. StateHome12–5,
3–3 ACC
19ThursdayW, 61–56No. 13 DukeHome13–5,
4–3 ACC
22SundayW, 70–57Georgia TechHome14–5,
5–3 ACC
26ThursdayW, 72–57PittsburghPittsburgh15–5,
6–3 ACC
29SundayW, 69–58ClemsonClemson16–5,
7–3 ACC
2ThursdayW, 73–62VirginiaHome17–5,
8–3 ACC
5SundayL, 62–55LouisvilleLouisville17–6,
8–4 ACC
9ThursdayL, 75–67SyracuseSyracuse17–7,
8–5 ACC
12SundayW, 73–55Boston CollegeHome18–7,
9–5 ACC
16ThursdayL, 77–66, OTN.C. StateRaleigh18–8,
9–6 ACC
19SundayW, 71–58Wake ForestHome19–8,
10–6 ACC
23ThursdayL, 61–59No. 4
Virginia Tech
10–7 ACC
26SundayW, 45–41No. 13 DukeDurham20–9,
10–8 ACC
MarchACC Tournament
2ThursdayW, 68–58Clemson Greensboro21–9
3FridayL, 44–40No. 13 Duke Greensboro21–10
NCAA tournament
18SaturdayW, 61–59 St. John’sColumbus, Ohio22–10
20MondayL, 71–69No. 12 Ohio State Columbus, Ohio22–11

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications


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