UNC Basketball: Tar Heels ranked sixth in preseason coaches poll

The 2016-17 preseason coaches poll has been released with the Tar Heels ranked sixth

On Thursday morning, the USA Today men’s basketball preseason coaches poll was released.

The poll, which began in 1992, is conducted weekly throughout the regular season using a panel of Division I head coaches. The coaches represent each of the 32 Division I conferences that receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Duke begins the 2016-17 season atop the poll, receiving 27-of-32 first place votes. The Blue Devils return national player of the year hopeful Grayson Allen as well as a stellar freshman class led by Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum.

Kansas came in second, followed by reigning national champion Villanova. Kentucky, led by its terrific freshman class, is ranked fourth. Oregon rounds out the top five.

The North Carolina Tar Heels begin the season just one spot outside of the top five, and according to USA Today’s Scott Gleeson and Eddie Timanus, there’s a lot of reason for excitement in Chapel Hill.

Here are their thoughts on UNC’s outlook this season:

“UNC brings back six of its eight top scorers. Granted, the two key departures — Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige — will be felt. But expect the Tar Heels to form a new identity with their returning core and a top-10 freshman class headlined by big man Tony Bradley and guards Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods. Last year’s supporting cast — Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt and Joel Berry II — all will have larger roles.

► X-Factor: Berry (12.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), who blossomed nicely as a sophomore, will be at the controls running the point again, this time as the face of an experienced yet unproven team.”

Virginia, Xavier, Michigan State and Wisconsin are ranked sixth through ten.

Indiana is ranked 12th despite losing All-American guard Yogi Ferrell. Purdue, with an excellent front court begins the season ranked 15th. UCLA was just 15-17 last season but comes in at No. 20 to start the season.

After losing four of its five starters, Maryland is ranked 21st. The entire preseason coaches poll can be seen here:

  1. Duke
  2. Kansas
  3. Villanova
  4. Kentucky
  5. Oregon
  6. North Carolina
  7. Virginia
  8. Xavier
  9. Michigan State
  10. Wisconsin
  11. Arizona
  12. Indiana
  13. Gonzaga
  14. Louisville
  15. Purdue
  16. Connecticut
  17. Syracuse
  18. West Virginia
  19. St, Mary’s
  20. UCLA
  21. Maryland
  22. Texas
  23. Creighton
  24. Rhode Island
  25. Cincinnati

Usually preseason polls don’t mean much as the Holiday tournaments get underway in November and there will be some shifting. But it’s a nice way to measure where your team stands to begin the year.

UNC will begin its season in New Orleans against Tulane on Nov. 11.

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