Tar Heels' Top Billing to be Tested

Tar Heels’ Top Billing to be Tested

North Carolina last won a piece of the ACC basketball regular-season title four seasons ago, and last claimed the conference’s regular-season championship by outright means in 2017.

The Tar Heels, who figure to be in the running for No. 1 status nationally this preseason, are all but certain to be cast as the favorite to conquer the ACC during the league’s approaching 2022-23 season.

UNC will be equipped to arrive at that hopeful destination. coach Hubert Davis‘team returns four starters in guards RJ Davis and Caleb Lovewing Leaky Black and power forward Armando Bacot from last season’s remarkable run to the Final Four and NCAA championship game, has added Northwestern graduate transfer forward Pete Nance to plug in alongside Bacot in the frontcourt, and will be able to call on more depth off the bench in the form of Puff Johnson, Donrez Styles and Seth Trimble.

The path to the ACC basketball crown during this coming season, the 20-game journey through the conference schedule set by the league on Tuesday, shapes up as a more challenging proposition than the Tar Heels (29-10 overall, 15-5 ACC) encountered last season, when they closed the regular season with an 11-2 finish to climb the ACC standings and move off the NCAA Tournament bubble.

>>> LINK: UNC Basketball’s 2022-23 Schedule Release <<<<

UNC begins ACC play in December at Virginia Tech (Dec. 4) and against Georgia Tech (Dec. 10), with its experience and potential likely to be plenty tested by the time the full load of league games takes effect with a road assignment at Pittsburgh on either Dec. 30 or 31.

North Carolina will have faced three Big Ten opponents in various venues and beneath different backdrops by then, after completing the non-conference portion of its 2022-23 schedule — on the road at Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, a neutral-site matchup against Ohio State at Madison Square Garden in the CBS Sports Classic, and a game against Michigan in Charlotte in an event called the Jumpman Invitational.

That the Tar Heels play at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. four days before their ACC opener at Virginia Tech could become a built-in benefit for acclimating to road environments. North Carolina’s non-conference schedule away from home is heavy on neutral-site games, rather than true road games.

Armando Bacot and UNC celebrate winning the East Regional in the NCAA Tournament. (Picture: Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina)

Hubert Davis could be qualified to dispense Big Ten scouting reports once his team finishes non-conference play, and the Tar Heels even could see a fourth Big Ten opponent during the early going of the season, if they meet Michigan State in the Phil Knight Invitational over Thanksgiving. Alabama, Connecticut, Iowa State, Oregon, Villanova also are matchup possibilities in that tournament.

Either way, it’s a power-packed, five-week stretch from late November to late December for UNC that contains nine games with just two against lesser foes — Portland on Nov. 24 and The Citadel on Dec. 13 — during a time in college basketball when some excepted heavyweights will be fattening up on inferior competition.

UNC’s home-only games under the ACC’s approaching 2022-23 schedule are against Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Miami, meaning the Tar Heels won’t travel to those opposing arenas. That doesn’t exactly register as missing a murderer’s row lineup on the road. Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech very well could end up among the five worst teams in the league. North Carolina went 3-0 in those buildings last season.

The Tar Heels will face home and away games during the 2022-23 season against Duke, NC State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Wake Forest, and will play road-only games at Florida State, Louisville, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

UNC avoided road assignments at Florida State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia last season, but will play in those places during the coming season. Florida State and Virginia have proven problematic settings for many an opponent across recent years, and the same has been the case for the Tar Heels. North Carolina has a three-game losing skid on the road at Florida State (last victory there was January 2016), and a seven-game slide at Virginia (last win there was February 2012). Florida State and Virginia figure to be considered next-in-line contenders for the ACC crown this season behind North Carolina and Duke.

Matching up against Wake Forest twice in the same regular season—Jan. 4 in Chapel Hill and Feb. 7 in Winston-Salem — will make for a recent rarity. As the ACC has grown and expanded its conference schedule, UNC’s in-state rivalry with the Demon Deacons has been sacrificed. The teams have met twice in the regular season just one time since 2013-14.

North Carolina’s clashes with Duke will be Feb. 4 at Cameron Indoor Stadium and March 4 at the Smith Center, the latter the 2022-23 regular-season finale possibly serving as the goodbye home games in Chapel Hill for the standout veterans Love (a junior) and Bacot (a senior). The first meeting of next season against Duke will take the Tar Heels back to the place where they closed the last regular season emphatically, defeating the Blue Devils in former coach Mike Krzyzewski’s home farewell, and then taking off on their extraordinary postseason run.

UNC has two of the dreaded Saturday-Monday turnarounds on its ACC schedule, but travel during those swings will be minimized with three of those four games at home. North Carolina plays host to Clemson on Feb. 11 and Miami two nights later at the Smith Center. Two weeks later, Virginia visits Chapel Hill on Feb. 25, before the Tar Heels travel to play at Florida State on Feb. 27. Those Saturday-Monday turnarounds shouldn’t be the endurance tests that Davis’ team encountered last season with a much shorter bench.

UNC basketball 2022-23 schedule

Oct. 28 vs. Johnson C. Smith (exhibition game)
Nov. 7 vs. UNCW
Nov. 11 vs. College of Charleston
Nov. 15 vs. Gardner Webb
Nov. 20 vs. James Madison
Nov. 24 PKI vs. Portland (1 p.m., Portland, Ore.)
Nov. 25 PKI vs. Villanova/Iowa State
Nov. 27 PKI vs. Alabama/Michigan St, Oregon/UConn
Nov. 30 at Indiana, ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Dec. 4 at Virginia Tech
Dec. 10 vs. Georgia Tech
Dec. 13 vs. The Citadel
Dec. 17 vs. Ohio State in CBS Sports Classic (3 p.m., Madison Square Garden)
Dec. 21 vs. Michigan in Jumpman Invitational (7.pm, Charlotte, NC)
Dec. 30/31 at Pittsburgh
Jan. 4 vs. WakeForest
Jan. 7 vs. Our Lady
Jan. 10 at Virginia
Jan. 14 at Louisville
Jan. 17 vs. Boston College
Jan. 21 vs. NC State
Jan. 24 at Syracuse
Feb. 1 vs. Pittsburgh
Feb. 4 at Duke
Feb. 7 at Wake Forest
Feb. 11 vs. Clemson
Feb. 13 vs. miami
Feb. 19 at NC State
Feb. 22 at Notre Dame
Feb. 25 vs. Virginia
Feb. 27 at Florida State
March 4 vs. duke

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