The ACC released its full men’s basketball schedule on Thursday. Here are the high and low points for the North Carolina teams:
Circle the dates: The Carolina-Duke February showdown takes place on Thursday, Feb. 8, at the Smith Center. The teams end the regular season on Saturday, March 3, at Cameron. Carolina and NC State play their two rivalry games in a two-week span, in Chapel Hill on Jan. 27 and at PNC Arena on Feb. 10.
Early start: Duke plays its earliest ACC conference game in 12 years. The Blue Devils open the ACC schedule with a game at Boston College on Dec. 6. That’s the earliest the team has tipped off the conference schedule since a Dec. 4, 2005, game against Virginia Tech.
Duke opens ACC play with three of its first four games on the road, including trips to NC State and Pitt. The Blue Devils then close the season with three of four home games — against Louisville, Syracuse and UNC surrounding a game at Virginia Tech.
Home state cooking: Wake Forest opens ACC play on Dec. 30, at North Carolina. That also starts a long stretch of games against area teams. Wake travels to Carolina, Duke and State in the first 20 days of ACC play and has four games against in-state foes in its first eight ACC contests.
Tough start, tough finish: The defending national champions didn’t get any favors from schedule makers. After the opener against Wake, UNC travels to Florida State and Virginia, back-to-back. After coming home for a game against Boston College, the Heels head back on the road, to Notre Dame. At the end of the year, Carolina has three road games in its last four, at Louisville, Syracuse and Duke.
Where the heart is: NC State gets a stretch of four home games in a two-week, five-game stretch in mid-January. The run starts with Duke’s trip to State on Jan. 6, and the only road game over the period is a daunting trip to Virginia.
Angry coaches: The always unpopular Saturday-Monday games dot the schedule again this year. Duke has three of them, including one that requires a trip to Miami for the Monday game. North Carolina has two.
Night owls: Equally unpopular are the 9 p.m. starts that keep fans and players out past midnight and wreak havoc on paper and local news deadlines. The Wolfpack will be the kings of 9 p.m. this year. State plays five late games, including four on the road. Wake has three. Duke has two. Carolina one.