It’s the middle of May. Most people are thinking about the end of the school year and graduations and summer plans. I, on the other hand, have my mind firmly trained on the 2021-22 college basketball season. Even though we are six months away from the start of the next basketball season, we already know a good bit about the schedule. With that in mind, let’s take a peek ahead at the opponents already on the docket.
How Many Regular Season Games Can Carolina Schedule?
First off, we need to determine the total number of games the Tar Heels could play. As a reminder, the NCAA reduced the number of games teams could play in 2020-21 due to COVID-19. For now, let’s assume that next season will return to the standard number of games. Not counting postseason tournaments, teams have three different options for the number of regular season games scheduled:
- 31 total games – up to 28 regular season games plus a three-game MTE (multi-team event)
- 31 total games – up to 29 regular season games plus a two-game MTE
- 29 total games – if no MTE, up to 29 regular season games
Carolina falls into that first category during the 2021-22 season. They are participating in a three-game MTE (more to come on that) and can therefore schedule 28 other games for a total of 31.
Who’s Already on the Schedule?
The Tar Heels have two one-off games against opponents already scheduled. They will travel to College of Charleston for a true road game on November 16. The date is TBA, but Carolina will host Monmouth as the other already scheduled stand-alone game.
UNC has another five games scheduled as part of various events. As always, they will play in the ACC / Big Ten challenge (opponent, date, and location TBA). For the eighth year in a row, Carolina will participate in the CBS Sports Classic. This year’s event will be held in Las Vegas (date TBA) and the Tar Heels are slated to take on UCLA.
Side note: Of the four annual participants, UNC has the best record in the CBS Sports Classic at 5-2. Ohio State is 4-3, Kentucky is 3-4, and UCLA is 2-5.
Carolina will also participate in an MTE – the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun (Uncasville, Connecticut). The three other participants are Purdue, Tennessee, and Villanova. That tournament will take place sometime around Thanksgiving, but the specific dates are yet to be announced.
The other piece of the schedule already in place is the 20 ACC games. A few years ago, the conference released a list of conference opponents through the 2021-22 season. So we actually already know all 20 conference games the Tar Heels will play (including home vs. away), we just don’t know specifically when those games will take place.
The 15 ACC basketball teams each play six schools home and away, plus four teams home only and four teams away only. Every school has two “rival” schools that they play home and away every year. The other four home and away schools rotate from year-to-year.
The Tar Heels’ rival schools are Duke and NC State. The other four schools Carolina will play both home and away this season are Boston College, Georgia Tech, Louisville, and Virginia Tech. The home only games are Florida State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Virginia. The away only games are Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest.
In case you are interested here’s the chart from the ACC with all the conference schedules:
Here’s a summary of the schedule as it currently stands:
Schedule 2021-22 (as of May 13, 2021)
- @ College of Charleston – November 16
- vs. Monmouth – date TBA
- ACC / Big Ten Challenge – opponent / date / location TBA
- CBS Sports Classic (Las Vegas) - UCLA
- Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun – Purdue, Tennessee, Villanova – Thanksgiving time period, specific date TBA
- 20 ACC games
- Rivals (home and home every year): Duke & NC State
- Home & away in 2021-22: Boston College, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Virginia Tech
- Home only: Florida State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia
- Away only: Clemson, Miami, Notre Dame, Wake Forest
If you total these games, you arrive at 24 plus the three-game MTE. That means Hubert Davis and company have four empty slots remaining on the non-conference portion of the schedule.
It will be interesting to see what teams the coaching staff decides to schedule with their four open slots. The non-conference schedule is already loaded. UCLA is at or near the top of every way-too-early top 25 (assuming Juzang returns). Villanova is in the top five of those same polls. Tennessee and Purdue are always tough major conference opponents. The ACC / Big Ten Challenge opponent will be a tough game (probably in the Smith Center this year, thankfully). Playing at Charleston won’t be a cakewalk.
One break the Tar Heels did catch is in the ACC teams they play only on the road. Each of those is a winnable game and Carolina would be wise to win at least two or three of them.
With the non-conference gauntlet already including two probable top-five teams, with the 2020-21 schedule providing no breathing room due to the COVID-19-reduced number of games, and especially in a year of transition to a new head coach (albeit with several returning starters), expect the four games to be a mixture of opponent types. Perhaps one more true road game. Perhaps one more high major conference team. At least two mid-major teams projected to do well in their league. Maybe one lower conference team.
That said, UNC, under Roy Williams, consistently challenged themselves in the non-conference schedule, so don't be surprised to see one or two more rather difficult opponents.
As more information becomes available, All Tar Heels will keep you informed. Stay with us.
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