North Carolina didn’t have a dominating start at No. 1. The Tar Heels open their second week atop the Associated Press men’s college basketball poll with coach Hubert Davis reminding his players that he it will take time to find a flow like the one that carried them to last year’s NCAA championship game.
UNC (2-0) won 44 of 63 first-place votes to finish ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga in Monday’s first AP Top 25 of the regular season, which featured only slight changes from the poll in pre-season released on October 17.
The Tar Heels are returning four starters from last year’s team, including AP preseason All-American Armando Bacot to the inside. But they had wins last week, first against UNC Wilmington and then against the College of Charleston.
After the first game, Davis said he hoped it was “game one anxiety and jitters.” After the second, he said he spoke to his team about managing expectations.
“One of the things I felt in them – I just didn’t feel nervousness, but maybe a little bit of the burden of expectation,” Davis said. “And I tried to make them understand that even though those expectations are noise, it doesn’t mean anything.
“I felt like every game they were trying to make it look like we had in April. It’s just not possible. It just can’t happen. It’s this year’s team.”
The upper level
The second-placed Bulldogs (2-0) collected 14 first-place votes after wins over North Florida and Michigan State, the latter coming off the deck of an aircraft carrier. Third-placed Houston (2-0) and fourth-placed Kentucky (2-0) won the remaining five votes for first place.
Baylor and Kansas were tied for fifth before. This time, Baylor is alone at No. 5, followed by Kansas and Duke. UCLA, Arkansas and Creighton round out the top 10.
The new eras
Duke and Villanova are both starting out with young coaches replacing Hall of Fame retirees. One of them had an early fall that took him out of the ballot.
The Wildcats turned to Kyle Neptune, who took over in the spring following the retirement of Jay Wright. They won their opener against La Salle and then lost to Temple, who moved Villanova from 16th to unranked for the first time since February 2019.
The Blue Devils beat Jacksonville and USC Upstate — giving up 82 combined points — in their first two games under Jon Scheyer, who took over from Mike Krzyzewski in the Duke program’s first coaching change since 1980.
Illinois (2-0) made the biggest leap, climbing four places to 19th after two easy wins at home. No. 14 Arizona and No. 21 Dayton each moved up three spots. In all, 12 teams made it through the pre-season ballot.
Tennessee (1-1) suffered the biggest fall, dropping 11 spots to 22nd after losing to Colorado in their home state.
Kansas — which fell to a voting tie at No. 5 — Creighton and the No. 15 TCU dropped one spot each to round out the four teams that slipped from their preseason rankings.
The status quo
Seven teams, all in the top 10, retained their pre-season positions.
No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 25 Connecticut are the new additions of the week. The Huskies spent most of last season in the AP Top 25, and the Aggies joined the poll for the first time under fourth-year coach Buzz Williams. Texas A&M was last ranked in February 2018, a season that ended with an appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16.
Farewell (for now)
Oregon (No. 21) joined Villanova as another team to drop out of the preseason poll. The Ducks opened with a home win over Florida A&M but lost at home to UC Irvine four days later.
The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, with No. 13 Auburn and No. 18 Alabama joining Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M.
The Big 12 was next with five, with No. 11 Texas and No. 23 Texas Tech joining Baylor, Kansas and TCU.
The ACC and Big Ten had three, with No. 16 Virginia joining UNC and Duke for the ACC and No. 12 Indiana and No. 20 Michigan joining Illinois for the Big Ten.
The Pac-12 and Big East each had two ranked teams, followed by the West Coast, American Athletic, Mountain West and Atlantic 10 conferences each having one.
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