UNC Basketball: Tar Heels climb in ESPN’s latest Way-Too-Early Top 25

UNC basketball moves up in ESPN’s latest Way-Too-Early Top 25

After dropping from 11th to No. 16 in ESPN’s previous Way-Too-Early Top 25, the North Carolina Tar Heels moved up a couple of spots in Wednesday’s iteration of the preseason rankings.

Not much has changed for North Carolina since the last time ESPN staff writer Jeff Borzello published his rankings, but he’s apparently got a little more confidence in the 14th-ranked Tar Heels than he did before. Much of that is due to their depth in the front court, which Borzello calls “loaded” in his write-up. He states that any of Roy Williams’ four big men — Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler — could start next season. And although that’s obviously not possible, it provides the Tar Heels with a lot of big, talented options in their interior.

In addition to that, the Tar Heels add one of the nation’s top point guard prospects, Caleb Love, to play alongside another athletic, high-scoring guard in R.J. Davis. They also welcome in a pair of knock-down shooters in Puff Johnson and Kerwin Walton. Junior guard/forward Leaky Black returns to man the starting wing position, and a healthy Anthony Harris could get a lot of burn this season, too.

Borzello touched on all of those things, stating that the Tar Heels will have a “major bounce-back season” in 2020-21.

“Carolina will be one of the more interesting teams to watch in preseason and early-November games next season, simply to see how Roy Williams handles his loaded frontcourt group,” Borzello writes. “The Tar Heels bring back former five-star recruit Armando Bacot and potential ACC Preseason Player of the Year Garrison Brooks, while also welcoming five-star interior recruits Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler. All four could conceivably start next season, but Williams will have decisions to make.

Those four plus five-star point guard Caleb Love would form the Tar Heels’ most talented five-man group, but that’s an impossible lineup. So the key next season will be the maturation of Williams’ wings (and health, a huge issue for Carolina last season). Anthony Harris should be healthy, Leaky Black is back and Williams brings in ESPN 100 prospects Donovan “Puff” Johnson and R.J. Davis. If one or two of those players can emerge as consistent wing scorers, it will be a major bounce-back season in Chapel Hill.”

This feels like a pretty good spot for the Tar Heels to be at when the season begins in November. A tough non-conference schedule and a difficult Atlantic Coast Conference slate could make for some growing pains along the way, but the Tar Heels should be prepared for a deep NCAA Tournament run when the time comes. Will they be a title contender at that point? I don’t know. But they won’t come anywhere near losing 19 games this season.

Next: Tar Heels trending for top-10 prospect

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