College basketball: UNC Tar Heels are back on top in preseason rankings
Chapel Hill, North Carolina - Breaking the tie with Duke for the most No. 1 preseason rankings of all time, the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team is ranked as the best in the nation in preseason rankings for the 2022-23 season.
With four starters returning to the court this season, the North Carolina Tar Heels will head into the season as the best team in the nation per the AP Top 25.
The Tar Heels received 47 of 62 first-place votes from a national media panel to easily cruise past Gonzaga, who were named as the best team in the preseason over the last two years.
The Bulldogs received 12 first-place votes, the No. 3 University of Houston Cougars earned one vote, and the fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats garnered two.
Surprisingly, there was a tie for the No. 5 spot between the reigning national champions – the Kansas Jayhawks – and their conference rival in the Baylor Bears, who won the national title in 2021.
Rounding out the top 10 best teams is Duke, led by head coach Jon Scheyer who replaced the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, along with UCLA, Creighton, and Arkansas.
While the last national title for North Carolina was in 2017, the Tar Heels are no strangers to winning and are looking to outperform their competitors and finish as the best team at the end of the season yet again.
Will North Carolina's four returning starters be enough for the Tar Heels to win it all?
After a shaky start to their 2021 season, it was quite the surprise when North Carolina drove to the final four as the No. 8 seeded team.
Led by first-year coach Hubert Davis, the Tar Heels turned on the gas in the second half of the season, proving themselves to be a legitimate title threat by making it to the championship game.
Guards Caleb Young, RJ Davis, forward Leaky Black, and All-American forward/center Armando Bacot are the Tar Heels' returning starters.
The showstopper that is Bacot averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game last season. The big man posted 21 rebounds in the shocking national semifinal win over rival Duke.
While UNC's returners from its NCAA runner-up roster makes the Tar Heels an easy pick to be No. 1 heading into the preseason, the trajectory of last season should serve as a cautionary tale for UNC.
Ranked No. 2 in the preseason last year, UCLA finished outside the top 10 of the poll. Even worse, Kentucky ranked within the top 10 of the preseason last year, yet failed to not only win the SEC championships as projected, but also lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 15 seed Saint Peter's.
Looking to step onto the court with their best foot forward, the Tar Heels will begin their season on November 7 against UNC-Wilmington at 9 PM EST.
Cover photo: Tim Nwachukwu / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP