UNC basketball to face very tough non-conference schedule

Jan 23, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Caleb Love (2) shoots in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 23, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Caleb Love (2) shoots in the first half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Where does the UNC basketball program’s non-conference schedule rank among the nation’s toughest heading into the upcoming season?

There will be plenty of challenges for the 2021-22 UNC basketball roster this upcoming season.

Not only will Hubert Davis be embarking on his first season at the helm in Chapel Hill, this talented group of student-athletes will try to prove that they have what it takes to compete in not only the Atlantic Coast Conference, but in the NCAA Tournament later on in the season.

Of course, it’s common to take an early glance at a team’s schedule, and we’re sure Tar Heels fans have some key dates already circled on their calendars (ahem, both Duke matchups). Although some key matchups are from within the conference, it’s often non-conference battles that tend to draw a ton of attention. For the Tar Heels, they most certainly will have their work cut out for them against their non-conference foes.

David Cobb of CBS Sports took the time to look at the non-conference schedules for each NCAA Division I program. He came up with his top five toughest heading into the new season, a list that most certainly included the Tar Heels.

North Carolina was ranked as having the second-toughest non-conference schedule. The Tar Heels trail only Alabama on Cobb’s list. In case you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here’s the list of the out-of-conference teams that the Tar Heels are scheduled to match up with this season:

*Rankings are based on the most recent AP Top 25 list*

Nov. 5: vs. Loyola (MD)
Nov. 12: vs. Brown
Nov. 16: at Charleston
Nov. 20: No. 7 Purdue (neutral)
Nov. 21: No. 4 Villanova OR No. 18 Tennessee (neutral)
Nov. 23: vs. UNC Asheville
Dec. 1: vs. No. 6 Michigan
Dec. 11: vs. Elon
Dec. 14: vs. Furman
Dec. 18: vs. No. 2 UCLA (neutral)
Dec. 21: vs. Appalachian State

Along with showcasing the schedule, Cobb also provided his in-depth take as to why he ranked North Carolina so high on the list:

"“There are plenty of cupcakes on North Carolina’s schedule, as the Tar Heels start out with four games against teams ranked No. 150 or lower in Matt Norlander’s preseason 1-358 ranking. But when it ramps up, it really ramps up for the Tar Heels. They are guaranteed two games against preseason top-20 teams in the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off, which ranks as our No. 1 early-season tournament. The first one is against No. 7 Purdue, and then they will play either No. 4 Villanova or No. 18 Tennessee the following day. Then, in December, UNC plays No. 6 Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 1 and UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic on Dec. 18. All told, the Tar Heels could end up playing four of the preseason top 10 teams.”"

The early portion of the team’s schedule seems to favor the Tar Heels, but it won’t get easier down the road for Davis’ squad. As Cobb mentioned, North Carolina is guaranteed to face two preseason top-20 teams in the Air Force Reserve Hall of Fame Tip-Off, a tournament that is sure to be a great early season test. Additionally, Davis and crew have Michigan and UCLA on the schedule in December, both of which are preseason top-10 programs.

A tough non-conference schedule could certainly help the Tar Heels. If they are able to take home a few key victories in those matchups, it will help them boost their tournament resume come by the end of the season. It will also give Davis a chance to evaluate his team before they begin ACC play.

Needless to say, the schedule will be tough for the UNC basketball program this season. However, even though there’s a new coach in charge and a new-look roster on the floor, expect this group to be more than ready for the challenges that are ahead of them.

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