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

The UNC basketball program ranks 17th in ESPN’s latest Way-Too-Early Top 25.

ESPN has released the latest iteration of its Way-Too-Early Top 25 for the 2021-22 college basketball season, and the North Carolina Tar Heels came in at No. 17 on the list for the second consecutive time. That’s one spot lower than their previous perch at No. 16 when they — and the eight teams ahead of them — dropped one position following the Memphis Tigers’ ascent from unranked to seventh.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs remain at the top of the list thanks to returning starters Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard, along with three top 25 freshmen — led by No. 1-ranked Chet Holmgren. The Kansas Jayhawks welcome back a handful of players from last season’s 21-win squad, and come in at No. 2 on the list. They’re followed by last year’s surprise Final Four participant UCLA, and the Villanova Wildcats are fourth. The Texas Longhorns, who were as successful as any team in the nation on the NCAA transfer market this offseason, are ranked fifth.

The Tar Heels are second among ACC teams on the list behind only the Duke Blue Devils, who are ranked 11th. North Carolina returns junior center Armando Bacot, an early favorite for first team All-ACC honors and a contender for conference Player of the Year. Also back for the Tar Heels in 2021 is a talented group of sophomore guards led by probable starters Caleb Love and Kerwin Walton. First-year head coach Hubert Davis and his new-look coaching staff also welcome in a trio of talented transfers in Dawson Garcia, Brady Manek and Justin McKoy.

The Tar Heels’ season begins on November 9 with a game against Loyola at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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