Lucas: Programming Rapid Reactions – University of North Carolina Athletics
By Adam Lucas
1. We already knew the opponents and non-conference dates, as well as the Atlantic Coast conference opponents, so tonight’s post is primarily aimed at seeing how the conference opponents fall.
2. With that in mind, the first look should be at how many tight turnaround times the Tar Heels will face. There are three Saturday-Monday combinations this year. The hardest seems to be the first, when Carolina hosts NC State on Jan. 29 at 8 p.m., and less than 48 hours later plays Louisville on Jan. 31. Short lead times are always more difficult when the rear is on the road, because then there is travel involved on the “off” day. Going against a rival in the State followed by a road trip with a good team is a difficult task.
3. Carolina’s other Saturday-Monday turnarounds are February 19 at Virginia Tech, followed by a February 21 home date with Louisville and a February 26 road trip to Carolina State. North, followed by a February 28 home game with Syracuse. It’s Carolina’s only meeting with the Orange this season, which means all of the preparation for Jim Boeheim’s zonal defense will have to be done in one day. Carolina was 2-1 in Saturday-Monday turnarounds last year (with a Monday game postponed) and 2-4 in the 2019-20 campaign.
4. The CCA opening on December 5th at Georgia Tech is shaping up to be a big start-to-season test. The Tar Heels don’t have a big recent history with early season trips to Atlanta including a loss last season. But Jose Alvarado is (finally) gone and Carolina will have already played seven games. Winning a conference on the road before Christmas would be a good start for Hubert davis‘first season as head coach.
5. Over the past 15 years, it can be assumed that the Tar Heels will continue to work on their rotation in December and January, causing the occasional headache early in the season. We don’t really know what will happen under Davis. Carolina has many tests at the start of the season, including games against Purdue and Tennessee or Villanova in Connecticut, a game against Michigan and a meeting with UCLA in Las Vegas. It’s a stacked non-conference schedule even before considering ACC games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech before Jan. 1.
6. And on January 1, the Tar Heels will be at Boston College for a noon board. It sounds like a very strange game, and it’s part of three road games in the first four conference games for the Tar Heels. Carolina also played three of the ACC’s first four road games last year, going 2-2.
7. Looks like leagues have finally started to understand that announcing football game times more in advance makes it easier for fans to participate and helps attendance. Unfortunately, we are now facing the same problem in basketball. Three of Carolina’s last four games on Saturday are listed as TBD.
8. As problematic as this development may be, it is a positive trend that the two Carolina-Duke games continue to be on Saturday. The regular season finale at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 5 at 6 p.m., which is set to be Mike Krzyzewski’s last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium (barring an appearance at NIT), promises to be great national sporting history.
9. It is always important when evaluating the schedule to check ACC opponents on road only. This year’s road trips are to Notre Dame, Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson. Of course, there aren’t any easy trips to the league, but it’s a relatively manageable quartet, especially since the visit to South Bend is likely to be with few students on campus.
10. In contrast, the home-only clashes are Virginia, Florida State, Pitt and Syracuse. Ask yourself how you would feel if it was only road games. It’s a lucky quartet not to have to visit on the road.
11. Carolina does not play a home game on the weekend after February 12th. These are traditionally the best Smith Center crowds of the year. The Tar Heels will need energy on weeknights in the building against Pitt, Louisville and Syracuse. On the flip side, look for that December 29 home date with Virginia Tech – at one point, sigh, which will be announced – as a tough, sneaky post. The Hokies will be good, have a decent number of fans in the area, and the home game between Christmas and New Years has traditionally been a sought-after ticket for those with family in town.
12. Ultimately, releasing tonight’s schedule only means one thing: we’re going to have a much more normal basketball season – fingers crossed – this year. Late Night will be October 15th and then it’s time to play Tar Heel basketball.