The University of North Carolina men's basketball team will play at least 14 games against schools that participated in last year's NCAA Tournament, including non-conference matchups against Iowa, Kentucky and Ohio State and either UCLA or Oklahoma. The Atlantic
Coast Conference released its entire 2014-15 schedule on Wednesday.
Carolina's 18-game ACC schedule includes home-and-home matchups against Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville and NC State; home games at the Dean E. Smith Center against Florida State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia and Virginia Tech; and road contests at Boston College, Clemson, Miami, Pitt and Wake Forest.
"We want a great schedule," says head coach Roy Williams, who enters the season with a 724-190 overall record in 26 years and a 306-89 mark at UNC. "This is my 12th year (as head coach at Carolina). In our previous 11 years our schedule has been in the top 50 in the country every year and in 10 it's been in the top 25 according to strength of schedule. This one may be a little off the charts."
A trio of special events highlights the non-conference portion of the schedule, which begins with the regular-season opener on November 14 against NC Central and concludes on December 30 against William and Mary.
Carolina plays four times in the Battle 4 Atlantis, including a game against Northeast Conference regular-season champion Robert Morris in the Smith Center on November 16 and three games at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving. The Tar Heels play Butler on November 26, either UCLA or Oklahoma on Thanksgiving and either UAB, Florida, Georgetown or Wisconsin on the 28th.
The Tar Heels play host to Iowa on December 3 in the 16th ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This is the first time UNC has played Iowa in the Challenge and first time in any setting since the Tar Heels beat the Hawkeyes, 106-92, in the championship game of the 2004 Maui Invitational. Carolina is 8-7 in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge after last year's win at No. 1-ranked Michigan State.
On December 20, Carolina plays Ohio State in Chicago's United Center in the CBS Sports Classic. Kentucky and UCLA play in the second game of the doubleheader. Next year, the four teams will play in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., with UNC facing UCLA and Kentucky playing Ohio State. Two years from now, the event moves to Las Vegas with Carolina vs. Kentucky and UCLA vs. Ohio State.
The Tar Heels play Kentucky for the 15th time in as many seasons when UNC travels to Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., on December 13. The game matches two of the three winningest programs in college basketball history. The teams have split the most recent 14 matchups with the Tar Heels taking seven of the last 10 games, including an 82-77 triumph last December in Chapel Hill.
"If you can be successful, the advantages (of playing a difficult non-conference schedule) are enormous," says Williams. "If you have some success, you can say that I am more prepared than just about anybody to get into conference play. And that's what we are trying to do. In the pre-conference, get ready for conference play, but also to play some of those national type games to measure yourself to see how you can do outside the league as well. It is planned to try and get better, get better, get better so that you are hopefully playing your best basketball at the end of the season when it's the most important.
"But the season is a long journey. It's not just about the end of the year. We are going to have some incredible opportunities or incredible challenges; it depends on the way you want to look at it."
In addition to the season opener against NC Central, the Tar Heels play five in-state, non-conference opponents with games at the Smith Center against Fayetteville State (Oct. 24, exhibition), Belmont Abbey (Nov. 7, exhibition) and East Carolina (Dec. 7), at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte against Davidson (Nov. 22) and at the Greensboro Coliseum against UNCG (Dec. 16). Starting times and television designations for the Davidson and William and Mary games will be set at a later date.
ACC action begins on January 3 at Clemson. The Tar Heels play host to Louisville on January 10, the first visit by the Cardinals to Chapel Hill since December 17, 1998, and their first as a member of the ACC.
UNC makes its initial ACC road appearances at Louisville on January 31 and Pitt on February 14. Those are part of a five-game stretch in which the Tar Heels play host to defending ACC champion Virginia amidst four road games. In addition to Louisville and Pitt, UNC also travels to Boston College (Feb. 7) and Duke (Feb. 14) in that stretch. This marks the first time Carolina has played four out of five ACC games on the road since 1997.
Following an ESPN Big Monday game against Syracuse at the Smith Center on January 26, the Tar Heels are home just one time in the next 25 days. Syracuse will be playing in Chapel Hill for the first time ever.
"There's certain points in (the schedule) that I think that are really, really challenging but that's what we are as the ACC now - the best conference maybe in the history of college basketball, the most challenging conference in the history of college basketball," says Williams. "There are a few points that are really going to be difficult for our team. We've got to be at the top of our game, every game, regardless of who you playing or where you are playing. Because it's that kind of league."
The regular season concludes at home on Senior Night on March 7 against Duke at either 6 or 9 p.m. The 62nd ACC Tournament will be played from March 10-14 in the Greensboro Coliseum.
"I can't imagine any league ever being what we are right now," says Williams. "In the old days if you finished in the top half - one, two, three or four - that was pretty good. Now there are 15 teams and to finish in the top half may be even more difficult than it was when there were just eight teams. You add Notre Dame, you add Syracuse, you add Pittsburgh, you add Louisville. The league was pretty doggone good before and the history of what has happened in this league over time has been impressive. Now the ACC is just off the charts. A couple of those runs through that league will be a test for everybody. It will be interesting to see how people stand at the end."
The Tar Heels will be making at least 22 appearances on the ESPN family of networks in addition to three games on CBS and five on the ACC Network. Every one of Carolina's first 23 games through the Virginia game on February 2 could be on either an ESPN network or CBS.
The Tar Heels return three starters from last year's squad that finished 24-10 overall and 13-5 in the ACC. UNC was a #6 seed in the NCAA East Regional and advanced to the third round of the Tournament.
Junior guard Marcus Paige scored 17.5 points a game and earned first-team All-ACC and second-team All-America honors. Paige, junior forwards J.P. Tokoto (9.3 points, 3.0 assists) and Brice Johnson (10.3 points, 6.1 rebounds) and sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks (7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds) headline a group of 11 returning lettermen.
"Late Night with Roy," the team's annual celebration to begin the season, is Friday, October 3 at the Smith Center.
2014-15 UNC Basketball Schedule
Fri. Oct. 24 Fayetteville State (exhibition) Chapel Hill 7:30 p.m. GoHeels.com
Fri. Nov. 7 Belmont Abbey (exhibition) Chapel Hill 7:30 p.m. GoHeels.com
Fri. Nov. 14 NC Central Chapel Hill 8 p.m. ESPNU
Sun. Nov. 16 Robert Morris (Battle 4 Atlantis) Chapel Hill 6 p.m. ESPNU
Sat. Nov. 22 at Davidson (Time Warner Cable Arena) Charlotte, N.C. TBA TBA
Battle 4 Atlantis (Imperial Arena, Atlantis Resort)
Wed. Nov. 26 vs. Butler Paradise Island, Bahamas Noon ESPN2
Thu. Nov. 27 vs. Oklahoma or UCLA Paradise Island, Bahamas 1 p.m. or 7 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 28 UAB, Florida, Georgetown or Wisconsin Paradise Island, Bahamas
ACC/Big Ten Challenge Presented by DICKS Sporting Goods
Wed. Dec. 3 Iowa Chapel Hill 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Sun. Dec. 7 East Carolina Chapel Hill 2 p.m. ESPNU
Sat. Dec. 13 at Kentucky (Rupp Arena) Lexington, Ky. Noon CBS
Tue. Dec. 16 at UNCG (Greensboro Coliseum) Greensboro, N.C. 7 p.m. ESPN2
CBS Sports Classic
Sat. Dec. 20 vs. Ohio State (United Center) Chicago, Ill. 1 p.m. CBS
Sat. Dec. 27 UAB Chapel Hill 7:30 p.m. ESPN2
Tue. Dec. 30 William & Mary Chapel Hill TBA TBA
Sat. Jan. 3 at Clemson (Littlejohn Coliseum) Clemson, S.C. 4:30 or 8 p.m. ESPN
Mon. Jan. 5 Notre Dame Chapel Hill 7 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2
Sat. Jan. 10 Louisville Chapel Hill 2 p.m. ESPN
Wed. Jan. 14 at NC State (PNC Arena) Raleigh, N.C. 7 p.m. ESPN2
Sun. Jan. 18 Virginia Tech Chapel Hill 6:30 p.m. ESPNU
Wed. Jan. 21 at Wake Forest (Lawrence Joel Coliseum) Winston-Salem, N.C. 7 p.m. ESPN2
Sat. Jan. 24 Florida State Chapel Hill 2 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2
Mon. Jan. 26 Syracuse Chapel Hill 7 p.m. ESPN
Sat. Jan. 31 at Louisville (KFC Yum! Center) Louisville, Ky. 4 or 7 p.m. ESPN or ESPN2
Mon. Feb. 2 Virginia Chapel Hill 7 p.m. ESPN
Sat. Feb. 7 at Boston College (Conte Forum) Chestnut Hill, Mass. 3 p.m. ACC Network
Sat. Feb. 14 at Pitt (Petersen Events Center) Pittsburgh, Pa. Noon ACC Network
Wed. Feb. 18 at Duke (Cameron Indoor Stadium) Durham, N.C. 9 p.m. ESPN/ACC Network
Sat. Feb. 21 Georgia Tech Chapel Hill Noon ACC Network
Tue. Feb. 24 NC State Chapel Hill 8 p.m. ACC Network
Sat. Feb. 28 at Miami (BankUnited Center) Coral Gables, Fla. 2 p.m. CBS
Tue. March 3 at Georgia Tech (McCamish Pavilion) Atlanta, Ga. 7 p.m. ESPNU
Sat. March 7 Duke Chapel Hill 6 or 9 p.m. ESPN
Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament (Greensboro Coliseum)
Tue. March 10 First Round (No. 12 vs 13; No. 10 vs. 15; No. 11 vs. 14) ESPN networks/ACC Network
Wed. March 11 Second Round (No. 8 vs. 9, Noon; No. 5 vs. 12/13, 2:30 p.m.;
No. 7 vs. 10/15, 7 p.m.; No. 6 vs. 11/14, 9:30 p.m.) ESPN networks/ACC Network
Thu. March 12 Quarterfinals (Noon, 2:30, 7 & 9:30 p.m.) ESPN networks/ACC Network
Fri. March 13 Semifinals (7 & 9:30 p.m.) ESPN/ACC Network
Sat. March 14 Championship (8:30 p.m.) ESPN/ACC Network
NCAA Tournament Sites
First Round (March 17-18): Dayton, Ohio; Second & Third Rounds (March 19 & 21): Jacksonville, Fla.; Louisville, Ky.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland, Ore.;
(March 20 & 22): Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Neb.; Seattle, Wash.;
Regionals (March 26 & 28): Midwest Cleveland, Ohio; West Los
Angeles, Calif.; (March 27 & 29): South Houston, Texas; East Syracuse, N.Y.;
Final Four (April 4 & 6): Indianapolis, Ind.
All times Eastern
Photo Courtesy: Roy Williams, UNC Athletics