Friday, October 29, 2010

Counting down the 10 Can't Miss UNC Basketball Games for 2010-2011

Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler are just two of the stars UNC will face this season
The Tar Heels kick off their college basketball season in two weeks against Lipscomb.  While I will undoubtedly get over-excited for what (hopefully) shouldn't be much of a game, the 2010-2011 Tar Heel basketball schedule offers a cornucopia of enticing showdowns.  Now that I am done with anatomy and have a bit of my free time back I decided to count down the top 10 can't miss games of the upcoming Tar Heel basketball season.  Given how much of an embarrassment last season was for Carolina, there is a common theme of payback in many of these games.  While preseason polls have built up expectations once again for UNC, to truly rebound and put last season in the past, the Heels will need to take care of business in many of these games.  But that's enough buildup, time to start counting down...

10) College of Charleston at UNC (November 28)
Any other season a matchup with College of Charleston would probably not crack the top 25 games of a UNC basketball season.  However, last year's OT loss in Chaleston proved to be the start of a free fall that saw a team ranked in the preseason top 10 end up in the NIT.  After the loss last season John Henson received criticism for tweeting that the Heels had just made someones college career relevant.  Perhaps this season Henson will make his own college career more relevant with a dominating performance against the Cougars.  I expect UNC to make a statement early in th season with a beatdown of College of Charleston.

9) UNC at Georgia Tech (January 16)
The Tar Heels' visit to Atlanta will allow Carolina to exact revenge on a team that emerged victorious not one, not two, but three times against them last season.  Georgia Tech should take a step back this season after losing Lawal, Peacock, and Favors but still remain formidable in the backcourt with Shumpert and Glen Rice Jr. returning among others.

8) Clemson at UNC (January 18)
One of the few silver linings of last season was that Carolina did not have to play Clemson in the Dean Dome.  If they had, perhaps Clemson may have finally snapped the 54 game losing streak at Carolina.  Fortunately the streak still stands and UNC will look to extend it to 55 games against at Clemson team that will be in a bit of a rebuilding year.

7) Texas at UNC (in Greensboro, December 18)
When UNC played Texas in the new Cowboys stadium last December many felt the matchup pitted two of the best teams in the nation.  While Texas emerged victorious, both teams disappointed throughout the rest of the season with UNC missing the NCAA tournament and Texas exiting in the first round.  Texas will have a different look this season after the departures of Dexter Pittman, Avery Bradley, and Damien James but they add top PG recruit Cory Joseph to a team that still has a very talented, if heretofore underachieving,  roster.

6) UNC at Illinois (November 30)
This rematch of the 2005 National Championship game will pit two programs with strong legacies looking to return to prominence in college basketball.  This will be the first true test for UNC's talented but young roster in a hostile environment.  Illinois has a talented backcourt, but I have a feeling that this game will turn into the Harrison Barnes show as UNC scores a win for the ACC in the Big Ten-ACC challenge..

5) UNC at Duke (February 9)
After four years of dominance at Duke that led many UNC fans to rename the stadium "Hansbrough Indoor Stadium," the Blue Devils laid an absolute beatdown on UNC at home last season.  Duke enters the season as overwhelming favorites to repeat and will likely be ranked #1 going into this matchup.  While I do not expect UNC to be able to win this season in Cameron Indoor, there is no doubt that Harrison Barnes will look to prove he made the right choice.  Also, Reggie Bullock should expect to hear a lot from the Cameron Crazies after his comments this summer.

4) Virginia Tech at UNC (January 13)
Despite UNC being ranked higher in the preseason polls, it was Virginia Tech and not UNC that was picked to finish second (behind Duke) in the ACC.  I for one think Virginia Tech, which exited the NIT earlier than UNC last season, is being vastly overrated.  However, Malcolm Delaney is a contender for ACC player of the year.  Look for UNC to lay their claim as the clear #2 in the ACC in this early January matchup.

3) UNC at NC State (February 23)
Even despite all the issues last year's team had, Carolina managed to take care of NC State in both of their matchups.  Over the past five years UNC has absolutely dominated their "rivals" from Raleigh.  However the Wolfpack returns Tracy Smith and adds three top recruits in Ryan Harrow, Lorenzo Brown, and CJ Leslie.  If NC State hopes to rejuvenate the rivalry with Carolina, they will need to win at home.

2) Kentucky at UNC (December 4)
While Michigan State-Duke will be the most anticipated game of the upcoming basketball season (and with good reason), the December 4 matchup of the Tar Heels and the Wildcats may be the most talent assembled on a basketball court all season.  UK again will depend on a #1 freshmen class to carry the team, featuring Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Stacey Poole, and perhaps Enes Kanter.  UNC has slightly more experience, but will still need big contributions from Barnes and Bullock as well as sophomores John Henson and Dexter Strickland.  This game may be sloppy at times, but also will likely be chock full of ESPN highlights.

1) Duke at UNC (March 5)
UNC will likely not be able to pull off a victory in Durham in February.  However, if healthy Carolina should have a pretty good shot to take down the Dookies in the Dean Dome in March.  My guess is that both teams will be ranked in the top 10 entering this matchup.  If UNC can beat Duke in March they may be looking at a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

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