North Carolina No. 1 Preseason AP Top 25 Men’s Basketball

North Carolina surprised just about everyone last year when a talented team led by freshman coach Hubert Davis brought a number 8 seed into the NCAA tournament leading up to the national title game.

The Tar Heels won’t sneak up on anyone this year.

With four starters back from the team that lost to Kansas in New Orleans, the Tar Heels are the runaway choice as the preseason No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released on Monday. They earned 47 of 62 first-place votes from a national media panel to easily outdo Gonzaga, the best preseason team of the past two years.

The Bulldogs got 12 votes for first place, while number 3 Houston had one and fourth place in Kentucky the other TWO.

“When they opened their lockers for last year’s first practice, there was a photo of the New Orleans Superdome in there. I wanted them to see where we were going in April,” Davis recalled last week. “The hard work and preparation, the practice we had to do to enable us to do that. This year it is the same approach as last year. The only difference this year is the noise from outside.

“Last year,” Davis said, “the noise from outside thought we didn’t stand a chance. The noise from outside thinks so this year.”

It marks the 10th time North Carolina has been the No. 1 preseason, breaking a tie with Duke for the most in AP poll history. But only twice in those years did the Tar Heels reach the national championship, and only the 1981-82 team that included James Worthy and Michael Jordan eventually netted.

“As Coach Davis always preaches, a lot of outside noise, and we don’t worry about that,” said Caleb Love, one of four returning starters for North Carolina. along with RJ Davis, Leaky Black and Armando Bacot.

“We’re just focusing on our team,” Love said, “and we’re getting better every day.”

The Bulldogs will once again lean on Drew Timme to deliver coach Mark Few his elusive national title. Houston has its highest preseason rankings since 1983, when the Cougars’ third of the Cougars’ Phi Slama Jama teams reached its second consecutive title game. Kentucky has its best preseason position since 2019, when the season ended amid the pandemic.

There was a tie at number 5 between the Jayhawks, who raised their latest national title flag in Allen Fieldhouse earlier this month, and Big 12 rival Baylor, who raised its own championship flag the previous season.

Duke, where Jon Scheyer replaced Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, was seventh and UCLA eighth. Creighton has its best ranking for the season at number 9, followed by Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, TCU and Auburn.

“You don’t pay much attention to it when you get picked ninth,” said Bluejays coach Greg McDermott. “You go to work every day and try to get better every day. It’s important that we approach it in the same way this year.”

The #13 Hoosiers have their first ranking since January 2019 and their highest preseason since 2016.

Villanova, where Kyle Neptune takes over from Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright, is at number 16, the lowest preseason ranking for the Wildcats since 2008. They were followed by Arizona, Virginia, San Diego State and Alabama.

The final five are Oregon, Michigan, Illinois, Dayton and Texas Tech.

“When I was in school as a player, I never really looked into the rankings, what the media would say about our ball club. You still have to go out and play the game,” said Hoosiers coach Mike Woodson. in my last year we were number 1 and we couldn’t pull it off So at the end of the day I think it’s pretty fun for our players who haven’t experienced that Again you have to go out and play I mean , you have to prove it on the basketball floor, then it counts.”

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 12 and SEC lead the way with five ranked teams. The Big Ten, Pac 12 and ACC have three each and the Big East has two. The West Coast, Atlantic 10, Mountain West, and American Athletic conferences each have one team in the poll.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

Texas A&M was the first team outside the poll, followed by UConn, to appear on 24 of 62 ballots. Miami, Purdue and Saint Louis also looked for a spot in the Top 25 when the first regular season poll was released on Nov. 14.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

The season starts for most teams on November 7, but as usual the first heavyweight meeting is the Champions Classic on November 15 in Indianapolis: No. Row, before No. 5 Kansas plays No. 7 Duke in the nightcap.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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