UNC Returns to the Land of the Ranked Teams

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

On January 5th, UNC lost at Wake Forest and the next day was dropped from #19 in the AP poll to out of it completely. Today, on the strength of UNC's first nine game winning streak in the ACC regular season since 2009, the Tar Heels are #19 in the AP poll and #21 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Since I favor the AP Poll here is the full list.

AP Top 25

Rank Team Record Pts Prev
1 Florida Gators (47) 25-2 1,606 2
2 Wichita St. Shockers (14) 29-0 1,549 3
3 Arizona Wildcats (4) 25-2 1,494 4
4 Syracuse Orange 25-2 1,410 1
5 Kansas Jayhawks 21-6 1,310 8
6 Duke Blue Devils 22-6 1,286 5
7 Louisville Cardinals 23-4 1,152 11
8 Villanova Wildcats 24-3 1,113 9
9 Creighton Bluejays 23-4 1,103 11
10 Saint Louis Billikens 25-2 1,047 10
11 Cincinnati Bearcats 24-4 921 7
12 Virginia Cavaliers 23-5 909 14
13 San Diego St. Aztecs 23-3 886 6
14 Wisconsin Badgers 22-5 818 16
15 Iowa St. Cyclones 21-5 709 17
16 Michigan Wolverines 19-7 653 20
17 Kentucky Wildcats 21-6 629 18
18 Michigan St. Spartans 22-6 552 13
19 North Carolina Tar Heels 20-7 440 NR
20 Iowa Hawkeyes 19-7 418 15
21 Memphis Tigers 21-6 288 22
22 Ohio St. Buckeyes 22-6 253 24
23 SMU Mustangs 22-6 155 NR
24 Texas Longhorns 20-7 129 19
25 New Mexico Lobos 21-5 113 NR

Simply moving into the poll shouldn't make a difference in how UNC plays but in some cases there is the perception that it does. This is tangible evidence of UNC's success and validation of the the quality of UNC's play of late. Of course the ranking is not nearly as important as where UNC ends up in the NCAA Tournament. Here are a few of the latest projections out there today.

ESPN(Joe Lunardi): #5 seed in the West assigned to Spokane
CBS(Jerry Palm): #7 seed in the East assigned to Raleigh
USA Today(Shelby Mast): #5 seed in the West assigned to Spokane

UNC still has a lot a work to do to improve its NCAA Tournament position. This is the price paid by losing to Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest and Miami. UNC's wins over the top four in the preseason AP poll isn't as much a lift as the three losses in the 101-200 range in the RPI is a drag. Which is to say, a win at Duke or beating one of Duke, Virginia or Syracuse in the ACC Tournament would help. The committee tends to reward teams playing well at the right time of the season and providing UNC continues to do that, it should bode well for the Tar Heels on selection Sunday.

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