Three Things: UNC Schedule Thoughts
Carolina officially released its full 2012-13 basketball schedule today. Three quick impressions of a challenging slate for a young team:
1. Carolina will again be road-tested before Atlantic Coast Conference play. One of the best aspects of Roy Williams’s scheduling philosophy is his continued willingness to go on the road in non-ACC games. He’ll take his Tar Heels to Long Beach State on Nov. 16—not in a neutral site environment, but at the 49ers’ 5000-seat Walter Pyramid. Carolina will also go to likely top-10 opponent Indiana, plus take a post-exams trip to Texas. The Tar Heels are 0-2 against the Longhorns all-time in the state of Texas.
Not impressed by that bit of scheduling machismo? As a comparison, while Carolina is playing three true road games before Christmas, the Tar Heels' ACC in-state foes (Duke, NC State and Wake Forest) will play a combined two true road games before they begin league play.
2. The game that will be sneaky-tough to get tickets to is UNLV on Dec. 29. Over the last few years, the Tar Heel ticket office has learned how to best distribute tickets for the Christmas break games when students are gone. Now, students get very few tickets for those games, and fans who are back in town or have family in town for the holidays will snap up the extras for this game. Last year, nearly 21,000 fans packed the Smith Center for what otherwise might have been a ho-hum game against Elon on Dec. 29, and in Dec. of 2008 the Smith Center was sold out for a Dec. 28 game against undistinguished Rutgers. Add to it the fact that UNLV will be a top-25 club this year, and the game has an afternoon tip-off (2 p.m.)—which means parents can bring their kids—and this is the one nonconference game that is almost certain to be a sellout.
3. The schedule divides neatly into two halves. First are the 16 games ending with the road trip to Florida State on Jan. 12. That’s a very difficult stretch that could include as many as seven games against ranked opponents, with only one of those games at the Smith Center. That half is punctuated by a less than 48-hour turnaround between a home game against Miami and the road trip to Tallahassee. Go ahead and prepare yourself—the Tar Heels are going to drop some games in this segment of the schedule. That has almost no bearing on how dangerous they will be in March, and could even be beneficial if they grow acclimated to some of those harsh road environments.
The back half of the schedule is the 15-game slate that begins with a week off after the trip to Tallahassee. Starting with a two-game ACC homestand against Maryland and Georgia Tech, that could be a chance for a young team to build some confidence going into a place they will need it—an ESPN Gameday game at NC State.
You tell us: which part of the Tar Heel schedule looks most dangerous to you?