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The Daily Tar Heel

Analysis: Looking ahead at the UNC women's basketball team's challenging schedule


UNC women's basketball head coach Courtney Banghart offers junior guard Deja Kelly (25) a fist bump during the team's second-round matchup against Clemson in the 2023 ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. UNC won 68-58.

The preseason No. 16 UNC women’s basketball team, joined by eight newcomers, is ready to tackle yet another tough set of opponents this season.

Tipping off on Nov. 8, the Tar Heels will face their first competitor of the season, Gardner-Webb, in Carmichael Arena. UNC will then face three more teams — Davidson, Hampton, and Elon — at home on Nov. 12, Nov. 15. and Nov. 18, respectively, for a busy week of play.

After getting comfortable at home, UNC will travel down to Estero, Fla. for the Gulf Coast Showcase. There, the Tar Heels will face Vermont on Nov. 24, as well as two other undetermined competitors — which could include No. 3 Iowa led by superstar Caitlin Clark.

Coming back up to Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels will play one of their toughest matchups of the season in the ACC/SEC Challenge against No. 6 South Carolina. The Gamecocks finished 36-1 last season after losing to Iowa in the Final Four. With the addition of All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention Te-Hina Paopao from Oregon, South Carolina is anticipated to have even more consistency from behind the 3-point line this season.

That game is expected to draw plenty of fans to Chapel Hill.

"I mean, South Carolina, I think there's under 1,000 tickets left already and it's not until November," UNC head coach Courtney Banghart said at the 2023 ACC Tipoff. "And we haven't even put it on sale for the general public yet."

After the Gamecocks, North Carolina will face No. 2 UConn on Dec. 10 in the Hall of Fame Women's Showcase in Uncasville, Conn. That game is expected to feature a recovered Paige Bueckers, who missed last season with an ACL injury and was named a preseason All-American heading into this year. 

The Tar Heels will then return to North Carolina to play Oklahoma on Dec. 19 in the Jumpman Invitational in Charlotte before moving into conference play on Dec. 31 against Clemson. 

UNC will come across several other preseason top-20 teams throughout conference play, including No. 8 Virginia Tech, No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 17 Louisville and No. 18 Florida State — all teams that pose unique threats.

After taking down the Tar Heels in two close games last season, Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley decided to return for her fifth year of eligibility and will look to make the team a force to be reckoned with once again.  Kitley is a two-time ACC Player of the Year and has an 8-2 record against North Carolina during her time with the Hokies.

North Carolina beat the Fighting Irish, 60-50, last season. The fight Notre Dame is expected to put up this season is heavily dependent on whether or not its star guard Olivia Miles successfully rehabs her knee injury before the teams face off. 

Louisville lost one of its key players, guard Hailey Van Lith, to the transfer portal, but used the same tool to take on California transfer Jayda Curry, who is expected to be a big contributor to the team this season. 

To finish off their regular season, the Tar Heels will face rival Duke for the second time on March 3, this time in the comfort of their own home at Carmichael Arena. The team will then look to make its way through the ACC Tournament from March 6 to March 10 in Greensboro before potentially earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. 

@dthsports |

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