2017 North Carolina Power Rankings: UNC torches way to top of heap in hoops

North State Journals sports staff picks their top college basketball teams from the state each week

Bob Donnan—USA Today Sports
Theo Pinson (1) reacts to a play duringin the second half if UNC's game against Florida State on Jan. 14. The Tar Heels defeated the Seminoles 96-83 at Dean E. Smith Center.

One week after debuting at the top of the first ever college basketball N.C. Power Rankings, Duke dropped two straight road games. That left the door wide open for North Carolina, who jumped straight to the top with two more conference wins.The Tar Heels weren’t the only team to get a boost from Duke’s tumble, with UNCW rising to No. 2 in this week’s list. Kevin Keatts has the Seahawks at 6-0 in conference play with their sights set on yet another CAA title.With the second week of conference play wrapped up, here’s a look at the top 10 teams in the state, according to North State Journal sportswriters R. Cory Smith, Brett Friedlander and Shawn Krest.1. North Carolina (30)Last Week: 2UNC stumbled out of the gate with a loss at Georgia Tech, but has since rattled off four straight wins in ACC play. That dominant play was tested against Florida State, but the Tar Heels answered with a small lineup that outran the Seminoles, handing them their first conference loss of the season.Theo Pinson is bringing more than just energy to this lineup, which was evident with his double-double against the Noles. With all the parts now in place and a few different lineups Roy Williams can tinker with, the Heels are hitting their stride in January with a tough February slate looming.2. UNCW (26) Last Week: 3There is no Division I team in the state with a better record than the 17-2 Seahawks. Keatts’ offense has looked unstoppable during the current 6-0 start in CAA play and is averaging more than 82 points per game on the road.Whether its the consistency of Devontae Cacok, athleticism of C.J. Bryce and Chris Flemmings or leadership of Denzel Ingram, UNCW has all the tools to make another run at a conference title. And with a trip to College of Charleston on Wednesday, the Seahawks will get their first true test.3. Duke (25) Last Week: 1Well, it couldn’t have gone much worse for Duke than last week. After touting them as the best team in the state, the Blue Devils were thumped by Florida State and Louisville on the road.Were we wrong? Or is this just a speed bump for Duke? With three games against the teams currently at the bottom of the ACC to close out January, Duke needs to get right with or without Mike Krzyzewski on the sidelines.4. UNCG (20)Last Week: 5Don’t look now, but the Spartans are suddenly surging in the Southern Conference. Following a loss to Samford, UNCG is on a four-game win streak and tied at the top of the SoCon with Chattanooga with a 5-1 conference record.Wes Miller’s squad has the upperhand on Chattanooga with the 73-68 win at Greensboro Coliseum earlier this year. With two games against Mercer (8-11) and The Citadel (9-11) coming up this week, look for UNCG to remain in the top five moving forward.5. Queens (19)Last Week: 7Regardless of the opponents they’ve faced, the Royals are 16-0 this season and the unanimous No. 1 in the Southeast Region. Aside from a few close games against Lincoln Memorial and Tusculum, Queens University has proved its worth and is clearly deserving of a spot in the top five of the Power Rankings.6. Guilford (15)Last Week: 8Similar to Queens, the strength of opponents will likely come into question with Guilford. But with eight straight wins by double digits and an offense scoring 73.3 points per game, the Quakers are making serious noise in the state with their hot start in conference play.7. NC Central (8)Last Week: 9Apart from a loss in a weather-delayed game to Delaware State, NC Central put together another great week. Two lopsided wins by an average of 16 points means LeVelle Moton’s team actually moves up two spots in the rankings despite going 2-1 during the week.8. NC State (6)Last Week: 4What’s wrong with the Wolfpack? Mark Gottfried seems to think it’s toughness and defensive effort. Whatever it is, NC State needs to figure it out before facing two teams tied with it at the bottom of the ACC in Pittsburgh and Wake Forest this week. T9. UNC Asheville (5)Last Week: NRA week after getting an honorable mention in the Power Rankings, UNC Asheville made the list the only way possible — just keep winning. The Bulldogs are in a three-way tie atop the Big South, but can prove they belong this Thursday against Winthrop.T9. Wake Forest (5)Last Week: 6The Deacons’ struggles continued last week with two more tough losses to drop to 1-4 in ACC play. Despite solid sophomore seasons from John Collins, Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods, Wake Forest still appears to be a year away from making any noise in the conference.Also Listed: UNC Pembroke (4), Pfeiffer (1)