UNC Basketball: Blue Devils preseason No. 3, and why shouldn’t they be?

The UNC basketball program is unranked in the 247Sports Way-Too-Early Top 22 for 2022, while the Duke Blue Devils are No. 3.

The Duke Blue Devils are ranked No. 3 in the 247Sports Way-Too-Early Top 22 for 2022, and why shouldn’t they be? After all, they won 13 games last season to just 11 losses, and finished the season on a blistering hot streak the saw them capture two victories in their final six games. And with a star-studded freshman class that included four 5-star players, it’s no wonder why they were so good.

Okay, I kid, but ranking a team third that loses its two best players in Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward, while also undergoing a number of other roster changes in the coming season seems…optimistic?

Sure, the Blue Devils add a talented crop of youngsters in 5-star prospects Paulo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels. They also return a solid trio of likely starters in junior big man Mark Williams, and sophomores Jeremy Roach and Mark Williams. So, yes, they obviously have talent up and down their roster, but we thought that last year, too, and next year’s team hasn’t shown us a thing yet. Maybe they will be the third best team in the country, but it seems a little premature to have them that high at this point.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Tar Heels — who won 18 games and return a number of key contributors — aren’t even ranked among 247Sports’ top 22 teams for next season. Maybe that’s because of the uncertainty of a new head coach. Maybe it’s because the Tar Heels lost sensational freshman center Day’Ron Sharpe to the NBA Draft, or rising freshman big man Walker Kessler to transfer — though there is some hope that the latter will return at the request of newly-appointed UNC head coach Hubert Davis.

The Tar Heels obviously have to get better next season to compete at the level that they want to. But there’s no doubt that they’ve got pieces in place — and ones with at least a year of experience under their belt — to put things together for the 2021-22 season in order to contend for a first-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Of course, none of this really matters right now, and the “way-too-early” rankings are all just talking points during a long offseason that’s oftentimes thin on content. We’ll find out what these teams are really made out of when they put the rubber to the road in November.

I’d just like to avoid awarding the Blue Devils any more preseason national titles until absolutely necessary, since they’re running out of room for banners in the Cameron Indoor Stadium rafters.

Check back with Keeping It Heel for all the latest on the UNC basketball program.