What to do with North Carolina?
The preseason No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll fell completely out of the rankings to begin the month after a four-game losing streak. But now, the Tar Heels are on a four-game winning streak including neutral site wins against then-No. 23 Ohio State and Michigan.
North Carolina (9-4) hasn’t solved all of its problems, but it’s looked a lot closer to the team many expected entering the season during its four wins. For starters, senior forward Armando Bacot has been posting numbers worthy of national player of the year consideration during the current streak. He’s averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the floor during that span.
On my ballot, I placed UNC at No. 22 this week heading into Friday’s road game at Pitt. But I would also fully understand why others would keep the team unranked and need to see more.
Miami has won eight consecutive games since losing to Maryland on Nov. 20. That included Tuesday’s 66-64 win against then-No. 6 Virginia on Tuesday. I didn’t have the Hurricanes ranked on my ballot last week — they were ranked No. 22 on the actual poll — I inserted them at No. 17 this week.
Something is amiss in Champaign as Illinois dropped its second game in its past three outings — a 15-point drubbing at home to Penn State and an embarrassing 22-point loss in a rivalry game with Missouri. The Illini’s resume includes wins against Texas and Virginia, so clearly, the talent to be an elite team is there. But when Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer was left venting after a win against Alabama A&M, it hints at potentially a much bigger problem in the locker room.
Mississippi State picked a strange time to lose its unbeaten streak to start the season. The Bulldogs were upset by a solid, but otherwise unremarkable Drake squad, 58-52.
Welcome to the Top 25
North Carolina rides a four-game winning streak into the holiday break with its next game on Friday at Pitt. Bacot has been at the center of the Tar Heels seemingly figuring out their offense scoring 20 or more points in three of their past four games.
Arizona State and coach Bobby Hurley had a short-lived visit to the Top 25. The Sun Devils had won eight in a row, but the road proved to be their nemesis just like in their first loss of the season at Texas Southern. ASU got blitzed 97-60 at San Francisco, which merited and exit from the poll after only one week at No. 25.
C.L. Brown’s Top 25 ballot
|21. San Diego St|
22. North Carolina
|24. Virginia Tech|
|25. Mississippi St|