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Iowa Hawkeye basketball team adds North Carolina as another marquee foe for this season

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Iowa men's basketball team has added another marquee opponent to its schedule, landing a home date against perennial national power North Carolina on Dec. 8.

Iowa's sports information department announced the matchup Friday, noting that a tipoff time will be revealed later. The game will be seen on one of the ESPN networks.

The Hawkeyes are a probable top-5 team in the country heading into a season that can begin no earlier than Nov. 25. They already have a neutral-court game against Gonzaga, which could be ranked No. 1, on Dec. 19 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and his star center Luka Garza will get a shot at taking down North Carolina in a non-conference home matchup this season. That's the word from CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein. The game would be part of the annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge.

Last season, Iowa traveled to Syracuse for its Big Ten-ACC Challenge game and earned an early-season win that was a big confidence boost en route to a 20-11 season.

North Carolina is coming off a disappointing 14-19 season under longtime coach Roy Williams. But the Tar Heels are a projected top-25 team this year after bringing in five-star recruit Caleb Love to play point guard and 6-foot-10 power forward Day'Ron Sharpe. Sharpe would likely be called on to help defend Iowa all-American center Luka Garza.

Earlier:Iowa's Luka Garza is an unlikely college basketball star with the help of grueling workouts

Williams has coached at North Carolina since 2003, winning national championships in 2005, 2009 and 2017.

The Hawkeyes have won three of their four meetings with the Tar Heels, most recently in 2014 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Whether fans will be allowed into Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the game is an open question. Iowa is not accepting season tickets for this winter, saying instead that will monitor the situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic and then possibly selling a limited number of single-game tickets. The general public is not being allowed into Big Ten football games this fall.

So far, Iowa's basketball schedule includes only two known games. Coach Fran McCaffery has said he hopes to play 27 games this winter, but the Big Ten hasn't yet revealed whether it will play a 20- or 22-game conference slate. McCaffery said he is hopeful that the annual rivalry game against Iowa State would be played this year. If so, it, too, would be at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, likely in December.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.