“It comes with the territory,” junior Marcus Ginyard said Sunday. “Everybody always expects big things out of North Carolina. The goal is to always outplay the other team and to always have that heart… In some regards, there’s a little more pressure, but at the same time, it’s something that this program has always been used to.”
This marks the second consecutive year that the Tar Heels have been the media’s preseason darling, but only the third time since the 1999-00 season.
Head coach Roy Williams welcomes the favorite tag, unaffected by the added pressure that distinction may place on his squad.
“It doesn’t bother me in the least,” Williams said. “I don’t think it has a bearing, No. 1. No. 2, you guys watch a lot of basketball, and I have a lot of respect for your ability and your knowledge. I’d much rather you pick us first than pick us 12th.”
Williams’ comments about the media’s voting ability carries some truth – over the last 38 years, the ACC preseason poll’s top-two choices have won the conference’s regular season title 32 times.
The fifth-year UNC coach knows from experience – Williams indicated his teams at Kansas and North Carolina had been voted preseason favorites 12 or 13 times during his 19 years as a head coach, and those squads won 11 regular season championships.
But while he may respect the media’s opinion, the motivation for success comes from within his own program.
“Expectations are from somebody else that are not even involved in the quest,” Williams said. “I talk to my team all of the time about dreams and hopes, because that’s ours – we’re the ones involved. And so I do try to get much more in tune to what we dream of and what we hope for, and not let what somebody else thinks sort of drive me to do anything differently.”
But junior Tyler Hansbrough acknowledged the preseason voting would put some added pressure on the Tar Heels.
“I still feel like North Carolina has a target for the tradition that we have,” Hansbrough said. “I still think a lot of teams are going to be coming at you harder than they [normally] would. It just adds a bulls-eye to you.”
North Carolina’s ACC regular season success has had a direct correlation to its NCAA national championship hopes over the last three decades. The Tar Heels won the ACC in 1982, 1993 and 2005, despite being voted second in the preseason poll during the latter two seasons.