NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Kentucky

North Carolina opens up its 2023-24 basketball season in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Nov. 6 against Radford and plays two more games at home before departing for the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Tar Heels' first opponent in the Battle 4 Atlantis is Northern Iowa on Nov. 22 before facing either Villanova or Texas Tech and possibly Arkansas, Memphis, Michigan or Stanford in the championship if they reach that point.

The Tar Heels' first marquee nonconference home game is the ACC/SEC Challenge against Tennessee on Nov. 29. Following that game, UNC faces reigning national champion UConn at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5.

UNC is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in program history. The Tar Heels started the season ranked as the No. 1 team in the country and failed to make the NCAA Tournament entirely but there's reason for optimism heading into the third season of the Hubert Davis era. UNC returns RJ Davis and Armando Bacot from the starting lineup and added former five-star Harrison Ingram from Stanford and forward Cormac Ryan from Notre Dame via the transfer portal. 

The Tar Heels also have one of the top incoming freshmen in the nation joining the program in Elliot Cadeau, who ranked as the No. 11 overall prospect in the 247Sports 2023 recruiting rankings.

Here are the top five nonconference games for the North Carolina Tar Heels this season.

1. UConn

When: Dec. 5, 2023 Where: Madison Square Garden (New York)

The Huskies' nonconference slate is loaded. The reigning national champs have games against Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and Goznaga before starting Big East play against Seton Hall on Dec. 20. The Huskies lost three key players to the NBA Draft but Donovan Clingan is expected to take a massive jump this season into a potential player of the year candidate to replace some of the production lost. UConn also returns Tristen Newton and Alex Karaban and the key transfer portal addition was former Rutgers standout Cam Spencer. It's unfortunate that this game won't be played at a home site, but Madison Square Garden is the next best venue for this marquee game.

2. Kentucky

When: Dec. 16, 2023 Where: State Farm Arena (Atlanta)

This game ranked as the No. 1 nonconference matchup for the Wildcats this season. Kentucky is a very intriguing team heading into the season because of the lack of postseason success the Wildcats have had the last few seasons. The Wildcats welcome 2023's No. 1 recruiting class to campus and that group is headlined by DJ Wagner and Justin Edwards. The No. 4 overall player in the 2023 recruiting class, Aaron Bradshaw, is an unknown for the start of the season because of an injury sustained in the offseason. This will be a major measuring stick for both teams before conference play starts.

3. Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament

When: Nov. 22-24, 2023 Where: Imperial Arena (Paradise Island, Bahamas)

North Carolina's opener in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas is against Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels will then face Villanova or Texas Tech and then either Arkansas, Memphis, Michigan, or Stanford in what could be the championship. A date with Arkansas or Memphis in the final would be the best possible scenario if the Tar Heels want to beef up an already impressive nonconference schedule. Villanova is a very possible matchup in the second game of the tournament and that would be a rematch of the 2016 national championship game, which will be remembered as one the best finishes in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

4. Tennessee 

When: Nov. 29, 2023 Where: Dean Smith Center (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)

North Carolina has the luxury of playing no true road games before ACC play starts and the biggest home game of the nonconference schedule is against Tennessee in the SEC/ACC Challenge. The Vols are coming off a disappointing ending in the NCAA Tournament and failed to reach the Final Four despite a favorable road to Houston after a loss to FAU in the Sweet 16. The good news for Tennessee is they return star guard Santiago Vescovi and joining him in the backcourt will likely be former four-star prospect Freddie Dilione.

5. Oklahoma

When: Dec. 20 Where: Spectrum Center (Charlotte, North Carolina)

The Sooners are entering Year 2 of a rebuild under head coach Porter Moser. Oklahoma has a better overall roster this season and they should be improved after finishing the 2022-23 season 15-17. This game against UNC will certainly be a big test before Big 12 play starts. The Sooners landed Kaden Cooper, the No. 65 overall prospect from the 2023 recruiting cycle and he should get immediate playing time. Oklahoma also attacked the transfer portal hard and added six players, including Siena transfer Javian McCollum. He ranked as the No. 11 overall player in 247Sports rankings and could finish the season as the Sooners' leading scorer.

2023-24 North Carolina basketball schedule

Mon, Nov 6RadfordChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sun, Nov 12LehighChapel Hill, North Carolina
Fri, Nov 17UC RiversideChapel Hill, North Carolina
Wed, Nov 22vs. Northern Iowa (Battle 4 Atlantis)Paradise Island, Bahamas
Thu, Nov 23vs. Villanova or Texas Tech (Battle 4 Atlantis)Paradise Island, Bahamas
Fri, Nov 24vs. Arkansas, Memphis, Michigan or Stanford (Battle 4 Atlantis)Paradise Island, Bahamas
Wed, Nov 29Tennessee (ACC/SEC Challenge)Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Tue, Dec 5vs. UConn (Jimmy V Classic)New York
Sat, Dec 16Kentucky (CBS Sports Classic)Atlanta
Wed, Dec 20vs. Oklahoma (Jumpman Classic)Charlotte, North Carolina
Fri, Dec 29Charleston SouthernChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sat, Jan 6at ClemsonClemson, South Carolina
Wed, Jan 10at NC StateRaleigh, North Carolina
Sat, Jan 13SyracuseChapel Hill, North Carolina
Wed, Jan 17LouisvilleChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sat, Jan 20at Boston CollegeChestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Mon, Jan 22Wake ForestChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sat, Jan 27at Florida StateTalahassee, Florida
Tue, Jan 30at Georgia TechAtlanta
Fri, Feb 2Florida StateChapel Hill, North Carolina
Fri, Feb 2at PittPittsburgh
Sat, Feb 3DukeChapel Hill, North Carolina
Tue, Feb 6ClemsonChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sat, Feb 10at MiamiCoral Gables, Florida
Tue, Feb 13at SyracuseSyracuse, New York
Sat, Feb 17Virginia TechChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sat, Feb 24at VirginiaCharlottesville, Virginia
Mon, Feb 26MiamiChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sat, Mar 2NC StateChapel Hill, North Carolina
Tue, Mar 5Notre DameChapel Hill, North Carolina
Sat, Mar 9at DukeDurham, North Carolina
Tue, Mar 12-Sat, Mar 16ACC TournamentWashington D.C.