Soon after ACC Basketball schedules were released on the men’s side, the same announcement followed for the women’s side, and we now have a complete schedule for UNC’s women this upcoming season:
Combine that with the earlier offseason schedule release, and we now know what the Heels will be up to for the entire regular season. Ranked #13 in ESPN’s too-early Top 25 from June, Courtney Banghart’s squad is looking to build on last year’s Sweet Sixteen appearance where they challenged eventual champions South Carolina more than anybody else they faced and establish themselves as Final Four contenders and one of the strongest programs in the country.
Unlike on the men’s side, this slate does not include any early ACC matchups, because the week that the ACC is doing early head-to-heads happens to coincide with the Heels’ designated exam week. That means they won’t have to try and focus on their conference record earlier than expected, and gives them more runway to figure out how things will work. The Heels return 4 starters from last year’s team, but they’ll be replacing point guard Carlie Littlefield and integrating three big-time first-year players: Teonni Key and Kayla McPherson, who redshirted last year due to injury, and Paulina Paris, the lone member of UNC’s 2022 class.
The flipside of that lack of early ACC action is that the Heels do not get a break of any kind once ACC play starts. From the 29th of December to the 26th of February when the season ends, UNC will play every Thursday and every Sunday; it’s sure to be a test of the team’s long-term conditioning. The home-away splits of the schedule are pretty forgiving, at least. Only once do the Heels go from a Thursday road game to a Sunday road game; that’ll be at the end of January with a visit to Pittsburgh followed by a visit to Clemson. UNC also gets the benefit of a three-game homestand right before that, where they’ll take on NC State, Duke, and Georgia Tech — that’s a gift. They’ll finish the season with a similar stretch of little travel, with two home games sandwiched by trips to N.C. State and Duke, neither of which will require a lot of the travails of usual travel.
There’s not really such thing as an easy opponent in women’s basketball in the ACC, but even so, the Heels are going to be hitting the ground running when we get to conference play. Florida State, even though they’re rebuilding with a first-time coach, was a tournament team last year. Virginia Tech was one of UNC’s toughest opponents in all three of last year’s contests between the two teams and is ranked 11th in that ESPN list, Miami was a tournament team that’s got something to prove after UNC drubbed them in Carmichael last year, and Notre Dame is a top-10 team that made the Sweet Sixteen last year before falling to N.C. State. After that stretch, Virginia is a relative breather, and then we get to the rivalry games in Carmichael. It’ll be a pretty brutal stretch that will tell us a lot about how ready these Heels are to really contend for the Final Four and beyond.
You can read more takeaways about the schedule from Matt Krause here on the GoHeels site. We’re about two weeks away from our first look at this latest edition of Courtney Banghart’s squad. Until then and always, Go Heels!