UNC Basketball: Tar Heels in top 5 for early 2015-16 Top 25


You knew it was coming.

The second the clock hit double zero in Monday’s National Championship Game, multiple sites would release its way too early Top 25 for next season. But that’s okay because we love college basketball and we want more. It’s also refreshing when you see the North Carolina Tar Heels towards the top of the list in each preview.

With the Tar Heels expected to return all five starters and the majority of its bench from last season’s Sweet Sixteen run, Chapel Hill should be filled with excitement next season. It also gives the Tar Heels a chance to give the fans something to celebrate in April rather than watch Duke celebrate a title.

While the Tar Heels were ranked in the top 5 in three major publication’s previews, one had them as high as number two for next season. CBS Sports Gary Parrish released his top 25 for next season last night and it features plenty of ACC teams including the top two in the nation.

The Virginia Cavaliers take the top spot as they are expected to return a good amount of players from their ACC regular season title team. Following the Cavaliers at number two is North Carolina, who Parrish believes will return everyone but not land Jaylen Brown or Brandon Ingram. Here’s what he had to say:

"Why the Tar Heels are ranked here: It’s possible Brice Johnson will turn pro. But, for now, he’s projected as a returning starter, which means UNC is projected to return every relevant player from a team that finished 12th in KenPom’s final ratings."

Parrish mentions that Brice Johnson could go pro, which suggests he didn’t see the news and had the story already written before the weekend. We forgive ya Gary.

Then there is ESPN. The network’s Eammonn Brennan released his top 25 headlined by no other than the Kentucky Wildcats. Brennan believes Kentucky will have another great team next year despite losing some key starters. But the Wildcats recruiting class is top-notch again.

Brennan lists Virginia at number two and then North Carolina at number three as he praises the Tar Heels starting core as well as freshman Justin Jackson. Here’s what he had to say:

"How good is this group of Tar Heels? And how much can the same group of players improve? That’s the big story heading into the 2015-16 season in Chapel Hill, where every single rotation player from a good-but-not-great 2014-15 campaign is slated to return. That not only means the same starting core surrounding star point guard Marcus Paige — including J.P. Tokoto, Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson — but what could be a breakthrough campaign from guard Justin Jackson, who had drastically improved by the end of his freshman year."

The final one comes from SportingNews and college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy. DeCourcy agrees with Parrish and has Virginia as number one in his rankings, but he disagrees with both CBS and ESPN by putting the Tar Heels at number four. DeCourcy writes:

"This is a team with a legitimate shot at a National Championship if it finds a way to get, well, tougher. Does experience do that? Perhaps."

Interesting stuff from DeCourcy there as a few people have noted throughout the year that the Tar Heels may lack the toughness and killer instinct we have seen in previous years.

While it’s still very early, it’s always fun to get excited about the potential of next season.