The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday February 5th

Following Sweet 16 appearance, students show support for UNC women's basketball team

The women's basketball team sings the alma mater after the game against Miami on Feb. 6 in Carmichael Arena. The Heels won 85-38.
Buy Photos The women's basketball team sings the alma mater after the game against Miami on Feb. 6 in Carmichael Arena. The Heels won 85-38.

The North Carolina women’s basketball team enters the new season as the No. 12 team in the nation, and with the media hype comes high expectations. 

Last year, the Tar Heels finished with a 25-7 record and made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time in seven seasons. Given the group's success, many students are looking ahead to the team's play in Carmichael Arena.

“I have pretty high hopes for this year’s women’s basketball team,” sophomore Hannah Poplin said. “Seeing as they are ranked preseason No. 12 on top of the fact that the men’s team is projected to have a great year, I think it’s the perfect opportunity for the women to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.”

The women’s team isn’t the only preseason ranked basketball team on campus. Following a loss in the national championship in April, the men’s team is ranked as the top team in the nation heading into the new year. 

Senior psychology major Chad Purcell is hopeful that the two teams can reach their potential and thrive on the court.

“I am hoping the UNC women’s basketball team this year does well and gets some good coverage,” Purcell said. “This men’s team is ranked No. 1 and the women’s team is ranked No. 12, so hopefully both teams can do well and rely on each other's success to continue playing well.”

The newfound success for the Tar Heels is thanks in part to head coach Courtney Banghart, who was hired following the 2019 season. Banghart thrived as the Princeton head coach and has started to take off in her short time at North Carolina. The seasoned coach has guided several players to become stars on this year's UNC team.

Junior guard Deja Kelly is on the watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which is given to the top point guard in the nation, and is also a member of the All-ACC Preseason Team. 

Last season, Kelly appeared in all 32 games, where she averaged 16.5 points per game, good for fourth in the league. She was named to the All-ACC First Team and was a WBCA Coaches’ All-America honorable mention.

Joining her is fellow junior Alyssa Ustby, who after starting in every game in her sophomore year and ranking first on the team and fourth in the ACC in rebounds, has made the preseason Cheryl Miller Award watch list for the second year in a row.

With a successful head coach and award-eligible players as well as a preseason ranking, the team will be followed closely by national outlets. The Tar Heels will have 13 of their games broadcast on ESPN networks, up from nine games last season. 

Eyes are on them as they look to live up to their preseason ranking. However, junior Malak Dridi hopes that the pressure of media coverage doesn’t affect the team’s performance.

“I hope the team doesn’t worry too much about the media hype and is able to focus on their game and making Carolina proud,” Dridi said.

The No. 12 Tar Heels have one of the most promising seasons in a long time ahead of them, and people have taken note. 

Yet, with the men’s team also ranked in the preseason and coverage closely following both squads, the Tar Heels must focus on the things that have allowed them to earn this ranking to find success in the new season.  

@lindseyashe_

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com 

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