This weekend's Final Four is more than just the capstone to the 2013-14 college basketball season. It also might turn out to be a significant preview of Carolina's 2014-15 hoops schedule.
The Tar Heels know for sure they will make a road trip to Kentucky, one of tonight's national championship game participants. That's the return game for last year's Wildcat visit to the Smith Center. In addition, Carolina could potentially play two other Final Four participants, as both Wisconsin and Florida are in the Battle 4 Atlantis on Nov. 26-28. That loaded field includes six teams from this year's NCAA tournament, including UCLA and Oklahoma.
Matchups for that event will be released later this summer, but it's a safe bet that Carolina would like to avoid a first-round matchup against one of the participants--UAB. The Tar Heels already have a home game scheduled against the Blazers next season as part of the 2-for-1 deal signed when Jerod Haase took over in Birmingham.
That won't be the only familiar face fans will see at the Smith Center next season. Jeff Lebo will bring his East Carolina club to Chapel Hill, and Tony Shaver and William & Mary will also visit. Yet another NCAA tournament team, North Carolina Central, is also slated to visit Carolina. Another home opponent will be part of the Battle 4 Atlantis--each participating team gets one home game as part of the event--but the opponent has not yet been determined.
In addition to the game in Lexington, two other games away from the Smith Center are set. The Tar Heels will travel to Charlotte to face Davidson, and on Dec. 20, Roy Williams will take his team to Chicago to face Ohio State as part of a doubleheader that will also include Kentucky and UCLA. That event is the first year of a multi-year agreement that will see the four teams rotate opponents and venues (there is also slated to be one in the East and one in the West in future years). In the year that Carolina faces Kentucky, those two teams will take a break from their annual series.
As usual, the Tar Heels will also take part in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Because of a jammed home schedule that already included Kentucky and Texas, Roy Williams offered to go on the road in that event last season, which resulted in the memorable win at top-ranked Michigan State. That should mean Williams and his team will be at home this year in the Challenge. Last season, ACC/Big Ten matchups and venues were announced on May 8. This year's pairings will hold even more intrigue because of Maryland's presence in the Big Ten.
A quick recap of the confirmed nonconference games on the schedule for next year:
North Carolina Central
William & Mary
Ohio State (in Chicago)
Battle 4 Atlantis (Florida, Georgetown, Butler, UAB, Wisconsin, UCLA, Oklahoma)