North Carolina didn’t have a dominant start at No. 1. The Tar Heels open their second week atop the Associated Press men’s basketball poll with coach Hubert Davis reminding his players that it will take time to find a flow like the one that carried them to the Last year’s NCAA championship game.
UNC (2-0) earned 44 of 63 first-place votes to finish ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga in Monday’s first regular season AP Top 25, which showed only minor changes from the preseason poll that was published on October 17.
The Tar Heels bring in four starters from last year’s team, including AP preseason All-American Armando Bacot. But they worked through wins last week, first against UNC Wilmington and then against College of Charleston.
After the opener, Davis said he hoped it was “anxiety and nervousness in the first game.” After the second, he said he talked to his team about managing expectations.
“One of the things I’ve felt in them — I just didn’t feel any nervousness, but maybe a little bit of a drag on expectations,” Davis said. “And I tried to get them to understand that while those expectations are noise, it means nothing.
“I felt like every game they were trying to make it look like we looked in April. That’s just not possible. That just can’t happen. This is the team of this year.”
The highest level
The second-ranked Bulldogs (2-0) received 14 votes for first place after wins against North Florida and Michigan State, the latter coming on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Houston in third (2-0) and Kentucky in fourth (2-0) took the remaining five votes for first place.
Baylor and Kansas previously tied for fifth place. This time Baylor is alone at number 5, followed by Kansas and Duke. UCLA, Arkansas and Creighton round out the top 10.
The new eras
Duke and Villanova both start with young coaches replacing retired Hall of Famers. One had an early stumble that took him straight out of the poll.
The Wildcats have turned to Kyle Neptune, who took over in the spring after Jay Wright’s retirement. They won their opener against La Salle and then lost to Temple, dropping Villanova from 16th to unranked for the first time since February 2019.
The Blue Devils defeated Jacksonville and USC Upstate — surrendering a combined 82 points — in their first two games under Jon Scheyer, who took over from Mike Krzyzewski in the Duke program’s first coaching change since 1980.
Illinois (2-0) had the biggest jump, moving four places to No. 19 after two easy home wins. No. No. 14 Arizona and No. 21 Dayton moved up three places each. A total of 12 teams rose from the preseason poll.
Tennessee (1-1) took the biggest plunge, dropping 11 spots to No. 22 after losing to Colorado in its home state.
Kansas—which fell out of the vote at No. 5—Creighton and No. 15 TCU each fell one spot to round out the four teams that slipped from their preseason rankings.
Seven teams, all in the top 10, maintained their position in the preseason.
No. No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 25 Connecticut are this week’s new additions. The Huskies spent most of last season in the AP Top 25, and the Aggies entered the poll for the first time under fourth-year coach Buzz Williams. Texas A&M last ranked in February 2018, a season that ended with an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.
Farewell (for now)
Oregon (No. 21) joined Villanova as the other team to drop out of the preseason poll. The Ducks opened with a home win against Florida A&M, but lost at home to UC Irvine four days later.
The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, with No. 13 Auburn and No. 18 Alabama joining Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
The Big 12 was next with five, with No. 11 Texas and No. 23 Texas Tech joining Baylor, Kansas and TCU.
The ACC and Big Ten had three, with No. 16 Virginia at UNC and Duke for the ACC and No. 12 Indiana and No. 20 Michigan at Illinois for the Big Ten.
The Pac-12 and Big East had two ranked teams each, followed by the West Coast, American Athletic, Mountain West and Atlantic 10 conferences which had one each.