Preseason No. 1 North Carolina Picks Up Where It Left A Loss To Kansas In Title Game

North Carolina finally got what it thought it had last April – the No. 1 ranking in the nation.

Only this one is the preseason college basketball ranking by The Associated Press released Monday, not the final poll last spring and not nearly as significant as what the Tar Heels got so close to it could smell last April 4 in New Orleans.

NORTH CAROLINA LED KANSAS BY 15 AT HALFTIME OF TITLE GAME, BUT LOST

North Carolina defeated Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski in his last-ever game two days before, 81-77, in one of the greatest basketball games you could ever see in what was also the first Final Four meeting between those two bloodthirsty rivals located just 6 miles apart.

North Carolina’s R.J. Davis saves a loose ball against the Kansas during the first half of the National Championship game. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow via Getty Images.)

Then the Tar Heels and first-year coach Hubert Davis took a 38-22 lead late in the first half over Kansas in the natonal championship game. The Jayhawks came back, but North Carolina was within 70-69 with 1:21 left and could have tied it at the buzzer for overtime, but Caleb Love missed a three-pointer. And Kansas won, 72-69, for the national title.

“We were one rebound away from winning the national championship,” Davis said at Atlantic Coast Conference Media Days last week in Charlotte, N.C.

“I mean, we definitely talked about it, just how the year ended last year, and coming back again this year,” said North Carolina junior guard R.J. Davis, one of four returning starters for the Tar Heels.

North Carolina Wants To Take It One More Step In 2022-23

North Carolina received 47 of 62 first place votes.

“I feel like me and Caleb are going to be up there with the best back courts in college basketball,” Davis said. “Just the way last year ended and how we’re approaching this year, it’s the same mindset. But it’s more we know we have a target on our backs.”

Also back for North Carolina is 6-foot-11 senior forward/center Armando Bacot, who averaged 16.3 points, 13.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots a game. Had he not had to play against Kansas on an injured ankle suffered against Duke, North Carolina may have finished No. 1 last season.

2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship
North Carolina’s Caleb Love jumps to pass in the first half of the game against the Kansas during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament National Championship in New Orleans. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Love, a 6-4 junior guard returning this season, also missed 19 of 24 shots in the title game, including 7 of 8 from 3-point range. But without him, the Tar Heels would not have gone as far as they did. He scored 28 in the win over Duke with a key 3-pointer late, and he averaged 15.9 a game on the season.

Davis averaged 13.5 with 3.6 assists. The fourth returning starter is 6-9 senior forward Leaky Black.

“We know what’s at risk,” Davis said. “It’s kind of like a championship or bust mindset.”

National Champ Kansas Tied At No. 5 With Baylor In AP Poll

Kansas lost much of its 34-6 national championship team, including NCAA Tournament MVP Ochai Agbaji, who averaged 18.8 points. Also gone are Christian Braun, David McCormack and Remy Martin. Point guard Dajuan Harris does return along with forward Jalen Wilson.

JAYHAWKS WERE FIRST OF ‘FBI WAVE’ TO WIN THE CROWN

The Jayhawks recruited well again and have the nation’s No. 3 class, so it checked in at No. 5 in the A.P. preseason poll, tied with Baylor.

Gonzaga received 12 first place votes and is No. 2 in the poll after entering the last two seasons at No. 1. Houston got one first place vote and was picked No. 3. Kentucky, which was shocked in the NCAA Tournament opener by No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s, 85-79, in overtime, is No. 4 in the poll after receiving a pair of first place votes.

Duke is next at No. 7 after losing eight of 10 scholarship players from last season as well as Coach K. But first-year coach Jon Scheyer gets started with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.

A former Duke player who coached under Krzyzewski from 20014-22, Scheyer will guide the Blue Devils against Fayetteville State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday Nov. 2 as the first permanent Duke head coach other than Krzyzewski since March 15, 1980.

On that date, Bill Foster coached Duke in the 1979-80 season finale – a 68-60 loss to Purdue in an NCAA Tournament regional final at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Coach K took over the next season and coached from 1980-81 through 2021-22, winning five national titles and reaching an NCAA record 13 Final Fours, breaking John Wooden’s record last season.

MOUNT K GOT SCALED BY NORTH CAROLINA

Duke’s players still have that Final Four defeat to North Carolina fresh in their minds.

“Yeah, just that whole Final Four loss, we’re going to use – at least me personally – that as motivation,” junior point guard Jeremy Roach said last week. “The coaching change has been very smooth. I think just this whole transition has been very smooth.”

UCLA at No. 8, Creighton at No. 9 and Arkansas at No. 10 complete the top 10.

The first half of the second 10 has No. 11 Tennessee, No. 12 Texas, No. 13 Indiana, No. 14 TCU and No. 15 Auburn.

Coach Jay Wright of Villanova smiles during the second half of a college basketball game against the Ohio at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

No. 16 Villanova is replacing a multi-national championship coach as well in Jay Wright, who won two titles and retired after reaching his fourth Final Four last season. Kyle Nepture, who coached under Wright from 2013-21 and was Fordham’s head coach last year, is Villanova’s new coach.

The rest of the top 25 has No. 17 Arizona, No. 18 Virginia, No. 19 San Diego State and No. 20 Alabama, No. 21 Oregon, No. 22 Michigan, No. 23 Illinois, No. 24 Dayton and No. 25 Texas Tech.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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