North Carolina confirmed on Thursday that it would play at Northern Iowa on Nov. 21 in a game that will be most significant because it will be something of a homecoming for Marcus Paige, the senior guard who is from Marion, Iowa.
The game at Northern Iowa is significant, too, for the Tar Heels because it's another challenge on an already-challenging non-conference schedule. Northern Iowa went 31-4 last season and lost against Louisville in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Three of Northern Iowa's top four players last season were seniors, including the 6-foot-8 forward Seth Tuttle, and so the team isn't expected to be as strong this season as it was last. Still, there are some nice pieces returning and shooting (Northern Iowa made 39.9 percent of its 3-pointers last season) is expected to continue to be a strength.
The announcement that UNC will play at Northern Iowa further completes the Tar Heels' non-conference schedule, which again will be among the best in the nation. Here's how it looks so far:
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Nov. 13 – vs. Temple (Veterans Classic in Annapolis, Md.)
Nov. 21 – at Northern Iowa
Nov. 23 – Hall of Fame Classic vs. Kansas State/Missouri/Northwestern (in Kansas City)
Nov. 24 – Hall of Fame Classic vs. Kansas State/Missouri/Northwestern (in Kansas City)
Dec. 1 – vs. Maryland (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Dec. 12 – at Texas
Dec. 19 – vs. UCLA (CBS Sports Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
We don't yet know the dates of the UNC's ACC games but we do the opponents and locations:
Home: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, N.C. State, Pitt, Syracuse, Wake Forest
Road: Boston College, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
That's a difficult and entertaining non-conference schedule. If you're in a position to follow the team in person, it comes with some pretty decent trips, as well: Annapolis, Kansas City*, Austin, Brooklyn.
(* – Kansas City didn't exactly receive rave reviews from members of the North Carolina press corps when the Tar Heels traveled there for the 2013 NCAA tournament, but there is a fine establishment called … The Green Lady, I believe – ah, yes, here it is – that made for a memorable night of jazz and hijinks. And there's good – but not North Carolina good – BBQ.)
One other thing that stands out about UNC's non-conference schedule (well, two things): No Kentucky this season. And only one of the marquee games – the one against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge – is at the Smith Center.
Andrew Carter covers UNC athletics for The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow him on Twitter @_andrewcarter.