Poll Position: UNC stumbling again
The Tar Heels are failing to live up to pollsters' first impressions. So what's next?
Of all the teams that were ranked in the top 10 nationally in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, perhaps the most mysterious and elusive was -- and is -- the North Carolina Tar Heels. Roy Williams' team has unquestioned talent -- get ready to see many of these players in the NBA very soon -- and any program that accounts for two of the past six national championships is not to be taken lightly.
Then again, all of the above was true last season, and look what happened: The Heels finished 5-11 in the ACC. True, UNC was blindsided by the injury bug, and Williams' team did finish with a nice run to the NIT title game before falling to Dayton. But finishing the conference season tied with NC State and Virginia was, to say the least, an unexpected outcome.
This season, Williams has added yet another outstanding recruiting class, one headlined by Harrison Barnes, who is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Looking at talent like Barnes and his fellow freshman Reggie Bullock as well as returning stars like Tyler Zeller and John Henson, the pollsters saw more than enough reason to put the Tar Heels in the top 10.
We're a long way from April, but we know a lot more than we did just a couple of weeks ago. North Carolina stands at 2-2, having lost two consecutive close games on a neutral floor in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off to Minnesota (72-67) and Vanderbilt (72-65). The two losses have dropped UNC all the way down to No. 25 in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. Is that a fair assessment? Or was Puerto Rico just a bump in the road for a young team that will soon justify the top-10 ranking? Keeping in mind that it's still November, here's what we think we know about the Heels so far.
To read Gasaway's full take on the Tar Heels, including why Harrison Barnes isn't even the most outstanding freshman on the team so far, you need to be an ESPN Insider. That also will get you other CBB content such as Lunardi, Bilas, Gottlieb and more.
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John Gasaway's 'Poll Position'
John Gasaway has written for Basketball Prospectus since its inception in 2007. His college hoops commentary appears weekly on ESPN Insider. John's writing has also appeared at SportsIllustrated.com, as well as in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Playboy.