Games with Kentucky, Texas, Wisconsin, and Michigan State (on an aircraft carrier - still think that is amazingly cool!) along with the usual challenging ACC slate highlight the 2011-12 UNC basketball schedule released on Wednesday.
UNC will earn some frequent-flier miles early with two trips to the Pacific time zone in November - to San Diego for the carrier game with Michigan State, and two weeks later, the Heels will travel to Las Vegas for two games (South Carolina and either Southern Cal or UNLV) in the iBN Sports Las Vegas Invitational.
Carolina returns home to face Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, followed by a trip to Lexington to play Kentucky. UNC then settles in for a school-record 9 straight home games, mostly against cupcakes, with a headliner against Texas thrown in for good measure.
The non-conference schedule has a reunion feel as Carolina visits Roy Williams' hometown of Asheville to open UNC-Asheville's new arena, while Appalachian State (coached by former UNC player Jason Capel) and Monmouth (coached by former UNC player King Rice, with Tar Heel teammates Brian Reese and Derrick Phelps on staff) will visit the Smith Center.
In the ACC, UNC has home-and-home games with Duke, NCSU, Miami, Maryland, and Virginia. Carolina will host BC, Georgia Tech (thank goodness no trip to Atlanta) and Clemson (The Streak is on the line again) in single games, while the Heels will travel to Wake, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. As THF pointed out upon reviewing the schedule, three of UNC's five home-and-home opponents will be middle of the pack teams at best,
One quirk of the schedule is the 9-game home stand which is part of UNC playing 14 of its first 19 games at home. Carolina has its typical marquee games (MSU, Wisconsin, at UK and Texas) but two of those are at home and one on a neutral warship. UNC should begin the season ranked in the top 2 or 3 in the country by most every measure and an unusually home-friendly schedule should do little to derail that. The flip side is that four of the last six games are on the road, including at Duke and NCSU.