Here’s a wild thought: college basketball will return to us all in less than three months. It is hard to process when there is so much hype around UNC’s football team going into next month, but truly November will be an emotional, exciting, and somewhat terrifying time for Carolina basketball fans everywhere. The good news is that Hubert Davis is being given the benefit of a doubt when it comes to preseason rankings (so far), which leads us to College Hoops Today podcast host Jon Rothstein’s latest article.
Yesterday Rothstein released his ACC preseason power rankings, and things are looking pretty good for the Tar Heels. He ranked the Heels as the second-best team in the conference, and even provided his projected depth chart. Here is what he thinks the starting lineup with look like:
G Caleb Love
G RJ Davis
G Kerwin Walton
F Dawson Garcia
C Armando Bacot
We will almost certainly release our own projected starting lineup article within the next couple of months, but it is fascinating that he has Kerwin Walton starting at the three spot. As many know, Walton was one of the standouts from Roy Williams’ final season, and finished his freshman campaign shooting at a 42% clip from three-point range. The one burning question will be whether or not he will be improved defensively, but all and all it’s understandable why Rothstein would have Walton completing a three-guard lineup.
When looking at this roster in its entirety compared to the rest of the ACC, it’s easy to see how Rothstein has the team ranked second in the power rankings. While there will be some familiar faces across the league, UNC probably has one of the better combinations of talent and experience compared to other teams. Armando Bacot is coming off of a fantastic season, we expect to see a lot more out of Caleb Love (and hopefully Leaky Black), and transfer newcomers Dawson Garcia, Brady Manek, and Justin McKoy should all give the Heels valuable minutes. This is all before getting to incoming freshmen Dontrez Styles and D’Marco Dunn, both of whom finished out their high school careers on a high note. Hubert Davis is entering his first year as the head coach with one of the better rosters he could’ve asked for, but of course we will have to wait and see if he can get this team to execute to its full potential.
Of course we have to discuss the elephant remaining in the room, and that is the number one team on this list. Once again, Duke has been crowned as the top team in the ACC for…err…some reason. To be fair, Coach K will be returning three veterans for the starting lineup: Jeremy Roach, Mark Williams, and Wendell Moore. It is also fair to point out that the additions of Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin to the lineup should make this a tough team to face in Coach K’s final season before he hands the keys over to his successor, Jon Scheyer. Finally, it is worth pointing out that power rankings usually have nothing to do with regular season title aspirations, and more with where a team will stand going into the season compared to the rest of the field.
However, my inner pettiness must point out that Duke hasn’t won an ACC regular season title since 2010, and in my mind it’s really hard to have them number one in any kind of ACC ranking list…ever. As far as the ACC Tournament title goes, they have won it three times during that span. I will be the first to say that history doesn’t usually mean that much in college basketball, and is usually just used as a talking piece. However, there is some history that not only is relevant when predicting future success, but it can downright haunt a program (see Clemson playing in the Dean Dome prior to the season that we all would like to forget). I am not saying that the Blue Devils couldn’t pull it off this season, they definitely have the right roster to do so. What I am saying, however, is that we’ve also said this about their roster many times before, meaning history is absolutely not on their side, and I personally do not understand the rush to put them at the top of a power ranking list without another Zion Williamson being on their team (who also failed to get them to a regular season title thanks to both his shoe, and UNC winning the title).
Now that I got my obligatory I-don’t-understand-why-we-keep-crowning-Duke-this-early rant out of the way, this season should be a fun one for the Tar Heels. Theoretically this may be the deepest team we have seen in a few years, but that all depends on what we will get from not only the newcomers, but from guys like Puff Johnson and Anthony Harris as well. I expect Virginia and Florida State to also be strong contenders as usual, but ultimately I think this is the best that I’ve felt about Carolina’s roster since the healthy version of Cole Anthony stepped on the court back in 2019.
With that said, check back in with me closer to November. I’m sure by then I will have played out 20 doomsday scenarios in my head and cried myself to sleep a couple of times. Oh college basketball, how I miss you.