This afternoon, the Associated Press released their college basketball preseason top 25 list for the 2022-23 season. Unsurprisingly the Tar Heels made the cut, but we weren’t sure where they would land among the best teams in college basketball. Well, we now have an answer: the North Carolina Tar Heels are officially the best team in the country, as voted on by media members from across the country.
This season has a lot of 2016-17 hype surrounding it, meaning that it is championship or bust for both fans and the team. While that may sound extreme to some, this came straight from the mouth of Caleb Love during ACC Media Day:
“It’s national championship or bust,” guard Caleb Love told ESPN on Tuesday at ACC Media Day, flanked by Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis nodding in agreement. “For real. That’s what we all came back for. They can’t take that away from us, once we do that. And that’s an accomplishment and a goal that will live with us forever. We’re already locked in, but that will be another thing for us. We’ll come back 20 years from now and it’ll still be hanging.”
This squad easily has the best chance in the country of making it back to the Final Four, with four of the five starters from last season returning. Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Armando Bacot, and Leaky Black will be joined by Northwestern transfer Pete Nance, who will fill the shoes of UNC graduate Brady Manek. The Heels also added much-needed depth with their 2022 class: Seth Trimble (PG), Jalen Washington (F), Will Shaver (F), Tyler Nickel (G/F), and Beau Maye will all have a chance to compete for minutes, though Trimble will likely get minutes no matter what. The addition of the Wisconsin native has given Hubert much-needed depth at the point guard position, which is something they lacked during last season’s Final Four run.
Other players that returned for the Tar Heels are D’Marco Dunn, Dontrez Styles, Puff Johnson, and Justin McKoy. Puff Johnson played big-time minutes near the end of last season, and had some great minutes during the NCAA Tournament. I’m expecting to see more of Dontrez Styles after showing flashes last season of how good he can be, and I’m sure we will also see more of McKoy and Dunn as well. Hubert Davis has been vocal about not wanting to repeat the “Iron Five” situation, but as we all know, it’s really up to the players as to whether or not he is able to dig deep into his roster. Everyone is extremely motivated to get to Houston this coming April, so it’s likely that the Heels’ depth will create a problem for each team they come across.
AP ranking aside, there is a lot of noise that the Tar Heels are easily the favorites to win the ACC this season. As usual, Virginia and Duke will be right there to challenge them along the way, but the rest of the ACC has a hard time matching up with the depth and talent of Hubert Davis’ squad. It wouldn’t be very surprising if they drop some head-scratchers during ACC play, but overall I think this team has a very good chance of winning the regular season title.
The Tar Heels’ ranking in the preseason poll is exciting, but it’s also going to be a long, challenging season. We will find out soon if they are able to hang around as one of the best teams in the country, or if last season’s magic wore off in depressing fashion. What do you think of UNC’s preseason rank? Let us know in the comments below.