UNC vs. Kentucky (in Las Vegas)
The Tar Heels and Wildcats played each other in 12 consecutive seasons between 2000 and 2011, but their games have become a bit less common in recent seasons. This one, in the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas, is their first meeting since Kentucky’s 84-70 victory at Rupp Arena in 2014.
As always, there’s plenty of intrigue. Kentucky has won more games than any program in college basketball history and UNC has been to more Final Fours than any program in history.
As usual, the Wildcats have no shortage of young but inexperienced players who are sure to become future first-round NBA draft picks. The Tar Heels have the edge in experience, and don’t lack for talent in their own right.
UNC at Virginia
The Tar Heels begin February with a home game against Notre Dame, followed by consecutive road games at Duke and N.C. State. And it doesn’t get any less challenging from there. UNC’s February schedule might just be the most difficult in the country.
The month ends with a trip to Virginia, where the Tar Heels haven’t won since February 2012. Since then, UNC has lost three consecutive times at Virginia. This one, like the one last year, figures to play a significant role in deciding the ACC regular-season champion.
If the Tar Heels find themselves in the conference race late in the season, a victory at Virginia – would likely significantly enhance their chances of repeating as ACC regular-season champions.
Duke at UNC
When is a game against Duke not among UNC’s most important of the season? Pretty much never.
The Tar Heels play at Duke on Feb. 9. UNC won at Cameron Indoor Stadium early last March for the first time since 2012. And while another victory there isn’t out of the question, the Tar Heels’ best hope to beat Duke will come in the regular-season finale at the Smith Center.
Duke spoiled UNC’s senior night both in 2013 and 2015. UNC will seek to end that trend. The Tar Heels’ victory at Duke last year helped propel their March run into the Final Four. Could another victory against Duke in early March have a similar effect for these Tar Heels?