Mar 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston (15) celebrates after a score with teammate Reggie Bullock (35) against the Villanova Wildcats in the second half during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Sprint Center. North Carolina defeated Villanova 78-71. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina No. 9 in Sporting News Pre-Season poll

With the college football and NFL seasons just getting underway in the last several weeks, it seems unreal that college basketball is just weeks away itself. Another sign that college basketball is right around the corner? Pre-season polls!

The North Carolina Tar Heels find themselves at No. 9 in the Sporting News’ pre-season top-25 poll.

While everyone wondered if P.J. Hairston would leave for the NBA Draft, Reggie Bullock slipped out the side door and left a year of eligibility unspent. That removes a productive shooter from the squad, but Hairston’s return to the perimeter (at least when his suspension ends) should erase any concern about that. For Carolina to be this good, or better, it needs reliable play inside from James Michael McAdoo and point guard Marcus Paige to progress nicely into his sophomore

The Kentucky Wildcats find themselves at No. 1 in the poll after recruiting arguably the best recruiting class in modern college basketball history.

ACC rivals Duke find themselves ranked as the highest ACC team in the pre-season poll at No. 4. The Syracuse Orange are ranked 8th; Notre Dame Fighting Irish will begin the season ranked 21st; and the Virginia Cavaliers will round out the ACC representation in the pre-season poll at No. 24.

Future conference members Louisville will kick their season off ranked 3rd.

North Carolina has the toughest non-conference schedule of the ACC and you can expect to see them shift around in the polls, but rest assured they will find their groove and be just fine when it comes time for the NCAA Tournament!

While No. 9 may be a respectable pre-season rank, this team has a great deal of talent and in my opinion underrated. I think this team is much better than other media members give them credit for being. With PJ Hairston returning and a talented recruiting class coming in, this team won’t have to back track too much from the departure of Reggie Bullock to the Los Angeles Clippers.

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