CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina is the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tar Heels return one of their most-experienced lineups in seven seasons.
North Carolina received 60 of 89 first-place votes from media members at Wednesday’s ACC media day, leading two-time regular-season champion Virginia and defending NCAA Tournament champion Duke. The Tar Heels return four starters and nine of its 10 leading scorers from last year’s team, which finished 26-12.
“Our goal is the Final Four and a national championship,” sophomore guard Justin Jackson said. “Anything less than that will be a disappointment for us, because we know we have a lot of pieces and we have the right pieces to be able to make a long run.”
The last time North Carolina fielded a lineup with this much experience was during the 2008-2009 season, when the Tar Heels went 34-4 and won their second NCAA title in five years.
North Carolina is already a favorite to win its sixth NCAA championship and third under Roy Williams, tying with Kentucky atop USA Today’s preseason coaches poll. Both teams received 749 total points, but the Tar Heels got 12 first-place votes to 11 for the Wildcats.
“We have some limitations, but I like the fact that we are embracing those feelings others have that we’re going to be pretty good,” said Williams, whose team is the ACC’s preseason favorite for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.
The Cavaliers received 18 first-place votes, with the Blue Devils getting eight first-place votes. Notre Dame, Florida State and Syracuse all received first-place votes, as well.
Notre Dame finished fourth in the media vote, followed by Miami, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Boston College.
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon shared preseason player of the year honors. Duke freshman Brandon Ingram was named the league’s preseason rookie of the year, and was also picked for the preseason all-ACC first team along with Paige and Brogdon.
The rest of the all-conference first team picks were Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson.
Named second team all-ACC were Virginia’s Anthony Gill, Duke’s Grayson Allen, Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste, North Carolina State’s Anthony “Cat” Barber, and North Carolina’s Brice Johnson.