There was a time, not too long ago, when the basketball schedule was all released at once. One day you woke up, and you had a schedule. Then, the networks realized they needed to fill space, and the schedule release became a thing.
So it goes that Carolina’s basketball schedule has come out in dribs and drabs. First off, the non-conference schedule was finalized last month, with the pairings announced for the multiple neutral court invitationals that Carolina will be taking part in. Now, finally, six weeks before the season begins (and two weeks later than they released it last year), the ACC has released the full conference schedule.
My Tar Heel Blog colleague Brandon Anderson went over the non-conference slate in the link above, so let’s now take a look at the conference schedule and see how it all fits:
The big thing you notice is right up top: Carolina’s early schedule gets a jolt with one ACC game in December, at home versus Florida State. The December 2nd game in Chapel Hill follows the Battle 4 Atlantis and the Tennessee game (as part of the inaugural ACC/SEC challenge). A Leonard Hamilton team will never be easy, and then the Tar Heels have to pack up to New York to take on the defending National Champion UConn Huskies a couple days later in New York. As Brandon noted in the non-conference preview, the first couple months are a gauntlet.
The good news for Carolina is that unlike previous seasons, the ACC didn’t wedge a conference game in the next weekend. This means the Tar Heels will get a true and full break for winter exams, and will also get 11 days to recover before starting the last of their non-conference slate.
The rest of the conference slate kicks off in the New Year with a game that has been spicy recently—Pitt on the road. It’s the only time the Panthers and Tar Heels will square off, and as the games have gotten chippy lately it’s clear that Carolina’s ACC schedule will start off with a bang.
The game at Pitt kicks off the longest road stretch of the conference slate for Carolina, three in a row with trips to Pitt, Clemson, and NC State. The Tar Heels get a three-game home stretch at the end of their conference slate—Miami, NC State, and Notre Dame—before finishing the regular season at Duke.
Carolina also has to do the Saturday/Monday turnaround twice, and both times they start on the road and come back to Chapel Hill. The first time they’ll have to head up to Chestnut Hill and face Boston College on January 20th before coming back to Chapel Hill to host Wake Forest. The good news for that stretch is that the game at BC is the only road game of a four game stretch. The second combo happens after Carolina’s free date: they’ll host Virginia Tech on Saturday, February 17th, then not play again until a trip to Charlottesville the following Saturday for a tilt against Virginia—their only meeting with the Wahoos this year—before coming back home to host Miami on Monday. That starts the above-mentioned three game home stand before Duke.
All in all—with the later off-date, only one conference game in December, and the home stretch to close the season—the schedule could set up well for Carolina. As the conference season gets closer and all of the teams take shape, it’ll be easier to determine just how difficult the schedule will be. In these days of the transfer portal it’s nearly impossible to assess how good a team will be in the preseason. That goes for Carolina as well.
Tar Heel fans, are you excited for this season?