'Tis the season.
With the release of the preseason AP poll, the major rankings for the upcoming college basketball season are out there for your perusal.
In the AP poll, the Tar Heels check in at #12. Fellow ACC members are as follows: #4 Duke, #8 Syracuse, #21 Notre Dame and #24 Virginia. Kentucky is ranked #1 ahead of Michigan State and Louisville. At present UNC's schedule includes the possibility of playing the top four teams in this poll and five of the top ten.
Over on the USA Today coaches poll, UNC is ranked 11th with Duke #4, Syracuse #7, Notre Dame #22 and Virginia #23. The top four in both polls is the same.
And finally there are the KenPom rankings which is far more interesting than the opinion polls. Ken Pomeroy has UNC 10th overall. The Tar Heels start the season with 6th in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive efficiency. Pomeroy is predicting a 22-8 season for UNC with a 12-6 mark in the ACC. That record does not include the possible match-up versus Louisville in late November since both teams actually have to win the previous game to make that happen. It is a safe bet Pomeroy is going to predict a Tar Heel loss there which means a 22-9 mark on a schedule that includes seven games against teams sitting above them in the rankings. In the new ACC, a 12-6 mark would actually be really good.
All of these rankings assume the Tar Heels play most of the season with a full compliment of players. The goal for UNC during the P.J. Hairston/Leslie McDonald absence is to at least beat the teams ranked below them. Chances are the Tar Heels would lose to Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky even with everyone on the floor(though KenPom actually has UNC winning vs UK) Losing to those teams without two key players isn't a big deal. Taking a loss against teams like Richmond or Belmont without Hairston and McDonald, doesn't destroy the season but is best avoided.