Jonathan M. Alexander | The News & Observer
The non-conference schedule is complete, and on paper it appears North Carolina will once again have one of the toughest schedules in college basketball next season.
With UNC looking to get back to the NCAA title game next year, having a tough schedule tends to bode well in March when the NCAA selection committee evaluates how well teams play against the top competition.
Of the 13 non-conference opponents UNC will face next season, six made the NCAA tournament. It will play teams like Michigan, which lost in the NCAA tournament championship game to Villanova last season, Kentucky, and either Michigan State, UCLA, and/or Texas.
Here’s a breakdown of UNC’s non-conference schedule:
Nov. 6 at Wofford
Call it a revenge game if you will. Last year, when UNC and Wofford faced off in Chapel Hill, it didn’t end well for the Tar Heels. Wofford upset UNC 79-75 behind its junior guard Fletcher Magee’s 27 points. Magee is returning for his senior season, and the Tar Heels will get another crack at him and the rest of the Terriers, who finished last season with a 21-13 record, which was fourth best in the Southern conference. This game will be an away game for the Tar Heels in Spartanburg, S.C.
Nov. 9 at Elon
UNC will play at Elon in the opening of its new arena. Elon was not good last season. It finished with a 14-18 record, which was seventh best out of 10 teams in the CAA conference. It has also lost two of its top three scorers, who were seniors. Elon’s leading scorer, forward Tyler Seibring (15.4 points per game), will return next season as a senior.
Basketball. Is. Back. pic.twitter.com/lIZTy1uPb4
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) June 28, 2018
Nov. 12 vs. Stanford
This will be UNC’s first home game of the season. Stanford, which has struggled to make the NCAA tournament in recent years, will have to make up for two big losses next season. Its leading scorer, Reid Travis (19.5 points per game), transferred to Kentucky, and its second leading scorer, Dorian Pickens (14.5 points per game) graduated. Coached by second-year head coach and former UNC assistant Jerod Haase, Stanford finished tied for third in the Pac-12 conference and finished with a 19-16 overall record. Last season, the Tar Heels beat the Cardinals on the road 96-72.
Nov. 16 vs. Tennessee Tech
Tennessee Tech finished tied for fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference last season and a 19-14 overall record. The Golden Eagles have made it to two NCAA tournaments in school history. But the last one was in 1963. This is a home game for the Tar Heels, and should be a fairly easy win.
Nov. 19 vs. St. Francis (Pa.)
While St. Francis finished tied for second in the Northeast conference last season, it likely won’t be much competition for the Tar Heels. St. Francis played Duke last year in Durham and lost 124-67. This will essentially be a tune-up game for UNC before the Las Vegas Invitational, which will feature UCLA, Michigan State and Texas.
Nov. 22-23 vs. UCLA, Michigan State or Texas (Las Vegas Invitational)*
UNC will play either UCLA, Michigan State or Texas in the first game. If it wins, it will play the winner of the other game. If it loses it will play the loser of the other game. UCLA, Michigan State and Texas all made it to the NCAA tournament last season. Each team had an early round exit. UCLA and Texas both lost in the Round of 64. And Michigan State lost in the Round of 32.
But each of these teams should be strong next season. Michigan State is often one of the top teams in the country, and UCLA and Texas both pulled in a top 10 recruiting classes for this season.
Nov. 28 at Michigan (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Last season, Michigan finished as the NCAA tournament runner up, one win away from its second ever NCAA tournament championship. Michigan should again be one of the better teams in the country, despite losing its leading scorer and rebounder Moritz Wagner (14.3 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game). UNC did beat Michigan 86-71 in the regular season last year at home. But this will be a road game for the Tar Heels making it a little tougher.
Dec. 5 vs. UNC-Wilmington
UNC coach Roy Williams will face his former assistant coach, C.B. McGrath, who finished his first season at UNC-Wilmington with an 11-21 record. It was a struggle for McGrath in his first season, but the Seahawks should be much better next year. The Seahawks’ leading scorer and rebounder, Devontae Cacok, is returning. He averaged 17.7 points per game and 13.5 rebounds, which was tops in the country.
Dec. 15 vs. Gonzaga
After a 10-day break in between games, UNC will face Gonzaga, a team it played a year ago in the 2017 NCAA tournament championship game. UNC won that game for its sixth national title in school history. It was Williams’ third at UNC. Gonzaga lost in the Sweet 16 last year, but it will always be one of the top teams in the country and a threat to win a national title. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s “Way-Too-Early Top 25” rankings and No. 5 in CBS’s. They were ranked No. 1 by Andy Katz in his preseason Power 36. This is a home game for UNC, but will still be a tough one and one of its biggest tests of the year.
Dec. 22 vs. Kentucky (in Chicago)*
It seems like the last few times UNC and Kentucky have played, they have been classics. Remember when Kentucky wing Malik Monk hit that game-tying shot with 7 seconds left in the Elite Eight in 2017? Then Luke Maye answered with a jump shot before the buzzer to send the Tar Heels to the Final Four.
While the excitement of that game may be hard to match, this game should be a good one. It will be at a neutral site, and most experts have predicted that the Wildcats to be the best team in the country next year. It will likely be the Tar Heel’s biggest test before conference play starts a couple of weeks later.
Dec. 29 vs. Davidson
Davidson, which finished 21-12 last season, narrowly lost to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament’s Round of 64, 78-73. This will be a home game for UNC, but a tough one nonetheless. The Wildcats, always a scrappy team, won’t be afraid of the Tar Heels. UNC beat Davidson in Charlotte last year 85-75.
Jan. 2 vs. Harvard
This will be UNC’s final non-conference game of the season. Harvard finished tied for first in the Ivy standings, but did not make the NCAA tournament, as it finished with an 18-14 overall record. After four consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament, the Crimson have not made it since 2015. The Crimson will return its leading scorer, Seth Towns, who averaged 16 points per game last season.
This article is written by Jonathan M. Alexander from The News & Observer and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.