The ACC schedule is out for UNC Basketball, featuring some interesting matchups and stretches. What are some specific key takeaways for the Tar Heels?
UNC Basketball looked mediocre in the first half of ACC play and after losing to Pittsburgh at home, was potentially missing out on the NCAA Tournament altogether. However, the team won its final five regular season games (including at Duke), to solidify its postseason standing and the rest is history; the Tar Heels made it all the way to the national title game that season.
With four starters back and an expected preseason top-3 ranking, North Carolina will have the top attention in the ACC, even more than Duke this time around. And that puts extra emphasis on their league games, which were announced this past week.
What are the top storylines for the Tar Heels’ ACC slate? Here are three to keep in mind.
Revenge/trap game at home vs Pittsburgh
The home loss versus the Panthers last season has been used as the “turning point” for the Tar Heels and when they started their big run. They’re already at Pittsburgh on Dec. 30/31st so that could technically be viewed as the “revenge game” but I’m sure that the team wants to really beat them at Chapel Hill too.
Pitt comes to UNC on February 1st but a few days later, is a road battle against Duke. That’ll certainly have the player’s attention and they very well could overlook the Panthers that week. But as last year showed, beating the Panthers at home is no guarantee.
An interesting matchup with Virginia Tech in middle of non-con action
As part of the expanded schedule, most teams play two ACC opponents in early December. The Tar Heels travel to Virginia Tech on the 4th, before facing off against Georgia Tech at home a week later. It’s important to note that the Hokies matchup is a few days after a road trip to Indiana a few days prior, as well as playing in the PK85 Invitational.
That’s a tough couple of weeks for UNC in terms of travel and competition and having to go from the preseason Big Ten favorite to a dangerous threat in the ACC will be difficult. It’s a great opportunity for Virginia Tech to trip them out and start the Tar Heels 0-1 in league play.
Brutal five-game stretch to end regular season
As expected, UNC will have Duke to end the regular season. The bigger problem is that the stretch of games leading up to that clash doesn’t do the Heels any favors either. They take on both NC State and Notre Dame on the road, before facing off against Virginia, which will be a challenge whether on the road or at home. Then days later is a road trip to Tallahassee to take on Florida State right before Duke.
All of those games are loseable for UNC and if they look even slightly ahead to the Duke matchup, can definitely lose to any of those five opponents. Last year, the Tar Heels were able to win out to get the momentum needed to get a bid and make a run in March. That’s going to be tougher to do this time around.