This was a big week for fans of UNC Basketball, and fans of basketball in the ACC generally, because this week, the ACC revealed conference schedules for both the 2021-22 men’s and women’s basketball seasons. The women’s schedules were released on Wednesday and the men’s schedules were released on Thursday, and we now know what both team’s entire regular seasons will look like, barring a few unknown times and pending the results of a couple of non-conference tournaments. Let’s take a look at what we learned the past couple of days:
The women’s team’s Twitter account announced their schedule with a nifty short video, which you can check out by clicking here. This is what their schedule will look like:
Courtney Banghart has made a habit in her first two years of playing smaller, local schools to open her schedule, and it’s resulted in early wins for her team. She’s doing the same for her third year, but NC A&T made the NCAA Tournament in March as a 16 seed and gave N.C. State a battle for a half and change — they’re no cupcakes. After staying in-state for three games, the Heels will take a trip to Texas to play TCU before a Thanksgiving weekend trip to the Bahamas to play a round-robin event with VCU and Washington. After what’s sure to be a tough Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup at Minnesota and a few more games in Carmichael, conference play will start in Boston on December 19th, and after finishing off the non-conference slate by hosting Alabama State ahead of Christmas, the ACC will have action every Thursday night and Sunday from the 30th of December until the ACC Tournament in March.
The regularity of women’s programming this season means there aren’t a ton of tight turnarounds to analyze like there might be with men’s action (spoiler alert!), but what we can look for are Sunday away games, which would be the biggest strain on a team because they’ve played Thursday night and then need to prep for Sunday action and travel all in the next two days. UNC’s pretty fortunate in that regard; they have 4 Sunday away games but one of them, at Notre Dame on January 16th, is after a Thursday where they don’t play. They’ll have one the next Sunday at Georgia Tech on the 23rd, and then two in a row on February 13th and 20th, at Virginia Tech and Florida State respectively. And they only play consecutive away games twice in-conference, and they’re both Sunday-Thursday rather than Thursday-Sunday (would that even be allowed?) — Georgia Tech-Duke in late January, then Florida State-Virginia in late February.
The Heels bring back 8 players from a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season, but will have a few big shoes to fill after the departures of Petra Holesinska, Stephanie Watts, and Janelle Bailey. Fortunately, a couple of graduate transfers and a top-5 incoming freshman class should be equipped to do just that, and they’ll try and improve on last year’s first-round exit in Banghart’s 3rd year in Chapel Hill.
We told you about the non-conference schedule dropping back in July, and now we have the conference schedule to complement it:
The thing that first jumps out to me is that UNC will only play Virginia and Florida State once apiece, and both of those games will be at home — a boon for Hubert Davis’ first season. The other home-only matchups are Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and on the flip side, UNC’s only games against Notre Dame, Miami, Wake Forest, and Clemson will be on the road, which could be a lot scarier. The other thing to look for with a men’s schedule is how many Saturday-Monday turnarounds a team will face, and for UNC, the answer is three: NC State-Louisville, which is extra tough because they’ll be traveling to Louisville on the off day, Virginia Tech-Louisville, and NC State-Syracuse, both road-home sequences. It’s unfortunate to not have any homestands of that nature, but you take what you can get. At least they won’t have to fly home from Raleigh for that latter one.
Having more two-game homestands than two-game road trips is a good thing; the Heels have three of the former and just two of the latter, but both of those road trips happen relatively early in the conference slate and within a couple weeks of each other, introducing even more chaos into the early part of the ACC schedule, where things might not be settled quite yet with how Hubert Davis wants to do things in his first season. The final thing to note about this schedule is that UNC will open things up against Georgia Tech way early, on December 5th. We won’t have another conference game until the 29th, for reference. Starting against the Yellow Jackets early has become a trend for UNC of late, and it’ll be a stiff test even after the departures of Jose Alvarado and Moses Wright, because Josh Pastner has shown that he’s a pretty solid developer of talent.
Hubert Davis’ first season as head coach is being awaited with bated breath, and now we have one more data point as to what it’ll look like. None of the important stuff, like what the on-court product will look like, but plans can start being made and records can start being prognosticated. Tickets will probably start going on sale for men’s and women’s games within a week or so.
Both teams will be introduced to the public on October 15th, as UNC announced on Tuesday, at a Late Night event that I think we’re just calling Carolina Basketball Late Night, at least for now. Comedian, Twitter personality, and radio personality Brian McLaughlin, better known as BDAHT, will serve as the emcee, giving the event some young and Black energy that it didn’t often have in its prior iteration. There will be a three-point contest, a women’s scrimmage, and a men’s scrimmage, maybe among some other things as well. As usual, the event will be first-come first-seated and free to attend.