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UNC basketball 2017 preview: Schedule breakdown

Looking ahead to the upcoming season

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina Midnight Madness Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels open the 2017-2018 season in just eight days, taking the court against Northern Iowa at the Smith Center.

This Sunday, the Tar Heels are hosting the Disaster Relief Fund Jamboree with East Carolina, UNC Greensboro, and UNC Wilmington. Not only can fans support hurricane relief efforts, they will see squads led by head coaches close to Carolina. Former UNC guards Jeff Lebo and Wes Miller lead ECU and UNCG, while former UNC assistant coach C.B. McGrath starts his head coaching career with UNCW.

Take a look below at Carolina’s schedule this season, and a breakdown of the big matchups and critical stretches for the Tar Heels.

2017-2018 North Carolina Tar Heels Men's Basketball Schedule

Date Time (EST) Opponent Location Television Notes
Date Time (EST) Opponent Location Television Notes
Friday, November 10 7:00 PM Northern Iowa Chapel Hill ESPNU
Wednesday, November 15 8:00 PM Bucknell Chapel Hill ACC Network
Monday, November 20 11:30 PM Stanford Stanford, CA ESPN2
Thursday, November 23 2:30 PM Portland Portland, OR ESPN PK80- Phil Knight Invitational presented by State Farm
Friday, November 24 TBA Arkansas or Oklahoma Portland, OR ESPN or ESPN3 PK80- Phil Knight Invitational presented by State Farm
Sunday, November 26 TBA Connecticut, DePaul, Michigan State, or Oregon Portland, OR TBA PK80- Phil Knight Invitational presented by State Farm
Wednesday, November 29 7:30 PM Michigan Chapel Hill ESPN ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Friday, December 1 8:00 PM Davidson Charlotte, NC ESPN2 Game to be held at the Spectrum Center
Sunday, December 3 2:00 PM Tulane Chapel Hill ESPN2
Wednesday, December 6 7:00 PM Western Carolina Chapel Hill RSN
Sunday, December 17 3:00 PM Tennessee Knoxville, TN ESPN
Wednesday, December 20 9:00 PM Wofford Chapel Hill ESPN2
Saturday, December 23 1:30 PM Ohio State New Orleans, LA CBS CBS Sports Classic
Saturday, December 30 TBA Wake Forest Chapel Hill ESPN or ESPN2 ACC Opener
Wednesday, January 3 7:00 PM Florida State Tallahassee, FL ESPN2
Saturday, January 6 TBA Virginia Charlottesville, VA ESPN
Tuesday, January 9 8:00 PM Boston College Chapel Hill ACC Network
Saturday, January 13 6:00 PM Notre Dame South Bend, IN ESPN or ESPN2
Tuesday, January 16 7:00 PM Clemson Chapel Hill RSN
Saturday, January 20 2:00 PM Georgia Tech Chapel Hill ESPN or ESPN2
Monday, January 22 7:00 PM Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA ESPN
Saturday, January 27 12:00 PM NC State Chapel Hill CBS
Tuesday, January 30 7:00 PM Clemson Clemson, SC ESPN2
Saturday, February 3 8:00 PM Pitt Chapel Hill ACC Network
Thursday, February 8 8:00 PM Duke Chapel Hill ESPN/ACC Network
Saturday, February 10 2:00 PM NC State Raleigh, NC ACC Network
Monday, February 12 7:00 PM Notre Dame Chapel Hill ESPN
Saturday, February 17 8:00 PM Louisville Louisville, KY ESPN
Wednesday, February 21 7:00 PM Syracuse Syracuse, NY ESPN
Tuesday, February 27 9:00 PM Miami Chapel Hill ESPN
Saturday, March 3 8:15 PM Duke Durham, NC ESPN
Tuesday, March 6 - Saturday, March 10 TBA TBA Brooklyn, NY TBA 2018 ACC Tournament

Once again, Coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels do not take it easy during the non-conference schedule. In their third game, Carolina travels to California to take on Jerod Haase and Stanford. Junior forward Reid Travis averaged 17.4 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game last year and is on a number of preseason All-American lists.

Early Season Tournament

After Stanford, Carolina will head to the Phil Knight Invitational, a 16-team two-tournament event honoring the co-founder of Nike. Oklahoma (ranked 21st in the preseason 2018 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings) and Arkansas (ranked 56th by KenPom) face off in the second game of the first session of the Phil Knight Invitational.

If Carolina and Oklahoma are victorious in their first games, they will play on Friday, November 24 at 3:30 PM ET. A game against this Big 12 opponent means that UNC will play at least one team from each of the other conferences in the Power Five during their non-conference schedule.

Tar Heel victories over Portland and Oklahoma or Arkansas advances them to a matchup against Michigan State, Oregon, UConn, or DePaul. Michigan State is ranked second in the preseason AP and USA Today Coaches Polls. Oregon received votes, but did not crack the Top 25 in either poll.

A successful Phil Knight Invitational run will provide Carolina with experience in a high-profile tournament and potentially résumé boosting victories against quality opponents.

Busy Non-conference Schedule

Michigan travels to Chapel Hill for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Receiving votes in the preseason AP and coaches polls and ranked 32nd by KenPom, the Wolverines are led by 2017-18 preseason All-Big Ten team member Moritz Wagner who averaged 12.1 points per game last year in his sophomore season.

After the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, UNC will have a few games against opponents they cannot look past. Carolina kicks off December by visiting uptown Charlotte where Davidson will host the Tar Heels in the Spectrum Center.

The Heels return home for games against Tulane and Western Carolina before the end of the semester. Coached by Frank McGuire product Mike Dunleavy, Sr., Tulane beat LSU 84-74 in a hurricane relief charity exhibition game on Halloween.

Carolina finishes off its non-conference slate against Tennessee, Wofford, and Ohio State. The Tar Heels survived against the Volunteers last year in Chapel Hill, and this year will have a rematch across the border in Knoxville.

Wofford has a difficult schedule before heading to Chapel Hill, and and the well-tested Terriers should not be overlooked.

The Tar Heels travel to New Orleans to round out non-conference play against Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic. This is the fourth year of the CBS Sports Classic, and UNC has a 2-1 record in the series.

ACC Schedule - A Tale of Thirds

Besides the fact that Boston College and Duke play December 9, the ACC truly opens conference play on December 30 with a nearly full slate of games.

When looking at UNC’s conference schedule, it can be roughly dissected into thirds. In the first five games, Carolina has a mix of favorable home games and tough ones on the road. Carolina opens league play against an improving, but John Collins-less Wake Forest team.

UNC goes on a two-game road trip in tough environments in Tallahassee and Charlottesville. The Tar Heels come back home for a game against Boston College before traveling to South Bend to take on preseason No. 14 Notre Dame. This year in particular, a good start is essential for the Tar Heels since the final third of conference play will be especially difficult.

In the next third of the schedule, Carolina will likely be favored in each of the games. After the Notre Dame road game, Clemson and Georgia Tech travel to Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels turn around after their Saturday afternoon game against GT and travel to Blacksburg for a Big Monday game against Virginia Tech.

The Tar Heels then get a few more days off before the first trip to the Smith Center for NC State with their new coach, Kevin Keatts. Carolina then travels to Clemson and finishes up this third of the schedule at home on Saturday in prime time against Cam Johnson’s old squad.

The final seven games of the schedule for the Tar Heels will be the most difficult of the regular season, however, it will be plainly clear what kind of team this is by February.

The Tar Heels will get a breather between their Saturday night game against Pitt and their Thursday evening match up against preseason No. 1 Duke. Starting with the Duke game, UNC plays three games in five days. It is a quick turnaround to a Saturday matinee in Raleigh, followed by another Big Monday match up, this time against Notre Dame in Chapel Hill.

There is a five day break before two on the road. First, the Tar Heels play preseason No. 16 Louisville on Saturday in prime time, then on to Syracuse for a Wednesday night game. These are the only regular season games against these opponents.

The Tar Heels get the next Saturday off before closing out the regular season against Miami and Duke. The Hurricanes travel to Chapel Hill for a 9:00 PM Tuesday tipoff, before ending the regular season Saturday night in Durham.

Key Takeaways

  • Coach Roy Williams has never shied away from scheduling tough non-conference games, including those on the road. This year is no different.
  • The Phil Knight Invitational will feature some of the biggest programs in college basketball, and will provide some opportunities for victories against teams that will have solid RPIs around selection time. If Joel Berry II is limited, or not available, it will be an even bigger test for the Tar Heels.
  • December will be an interesting month for UNC. Davidson and Tennessee challenged the Tar Heels last year, and expect the same type of efforts from those teams this year.
  • Carolina’s last loss to Wake Forest was in the conference opener in January 2014. That season, the Tar Heels stumbled out of the blocks with three losses. With how this year’s schedule ends, UNC cannot afford to start league play 0-3.
  • This is the first season since 2014 that Carolina plays Notre Dame twice in the regular season.