1. The stretch from Jan. 31-Feb. 18 might be the toughest five-game stretch in the Roy Williams era. That gauntlet includes four road games-Louisville, Boston College, Pitt and Duke-with a home game against Virginia sandwiched at the beginning. It also features a Saturday-Monday turnaround (going from at Louisville to home against the Cavaliers) and three games against the top nine in this preseason poll.
As if that's not enough, it also marks the first time in the Williams era, and the first time since the 2000-01 season, that Carolina has played three straight ACC road games.
Oh, by the way, the game leading into that stretch? Just a little home matchup against Syracuse, the back half of another Saturday-Monday turnaround and the first time ever the Orange have visited Chapel Hill (seven of the eight games in the UNC-Syracuse series have been played in the Northeast).
2. What a quirky ending to the schedule, with the Tar Heels facing either Duke or Georgia Tech four times in the final six games after having avoided both teams in the first three months of the slate. The Jackets suffered significant personnel losses from last season's 12th-place team, but if they happen to put it together at the end of the year, facing them twice in 10 days could be tough. The matchups with Duke, of course, are largely dictated by television. The initial meeting with the Blue Devils on Feb. 18 will be the latest scheduled first UNC-Duke game of the year ever.
3. When you see it all on one sheet of paper, it becomes apparent how very difficult this year's schedule could be. Using that same poll as above, the Tar Heels are guaranteed to play five games against the nation's top six, could very well face Florida or Wisconsin in the Bahamas (which would make it six against the top seven), and are guaranteed to play eight games against the top 25 with a matchup against Oklahoma possible in the Bahamas.
4. Rapider reactions: The Texas series will likely resume next season...No home game against Clemson means Carolina's impressive streak in Chapel Hill against the Tigers lives for another year...Finally getting the early ACC/Big Ten Challenge game is a scheduling break for those who have to work the next day. The late games of those doubleheaders often start near 10 p.m...The Tar Heels need to build some momentum early in the ACC schedule to be in position for the difficult end of January and first part of February...
A two-game swing to Miami and then to Georgia Tech near the end of the year might be sneaky tough, especially when most of the focus will be on the season ender against Duke...The Tar Heels won't get much chance to break in three freshmen who could play big roles. They'll play just two regular season college games before playing at Davidson and then heading to the Bahamas for what is likely the best Thanksgiving weekend tournament in the country this season...Having played in some different environments (Time Warner Cable Arena, the Bahamas) rather than just scheduling a string of home games will help on the Dec. 13 trip to Kentucky.
Here's Roy Williams discussing the schedule in an exclusive Q&A with GoHeels.com: