Long wait for Duke to even record in quirky ACC schedule

Duke played its earliest ACC opener in 12 years

Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski during the first half against the Boston College Eagles at Silvio Conte Forum. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Duke opened its ACC season early this year and paid the price for it.

The No. 1 Blue Devils ran into a buzz saw, as Boston College hit 15 three-pointers to give Duke its first defeat of the season.

It’s the earliest Duke has opened ACC play since 2005-06, when the Blue Devils had a game on Dec. 4 against new ACC member Virginia Tech. Their last early ACC opener not necessitated by the addition of a new team was the Dec. 2 opener against Clemson in 2001-02.

Duke will have to sit on its 0-1 conference record for three weeks. Its next ACC game, and in fact, the next league game anyone will play, will be on Dec. 30, 21 days after the opener.

While the early-December start is rare for Duke, it’s not unprecedented in the ACC. Wake and NC State opened conference play on Dec. 6, 2014, then went more than four weeks before playing another ACC game.

In the last 10 seasons, there have been six ACC games on Dec. 9 or earlier, and 20 teams that had a three-week or longer gap between ACC games.

“You’d rather not do it,” Krzyzewski said. “I’d rather start right after (the holidays), but that’s the way it is. (Boston College) started too. It’s the same for everybody. It’ll be this way from now on, because we’re going to 20 (conference) games.”

While the early start and long wait isn’t the easiest thing to deal with, it’s necessitated by the fact that most ACC schools have final exams the second week of December, followed by the holidays.

Given the choice, Duke would rather play in early December than Christmas week, as Krzyzewski said in 2011, when the ACC expanded its schedule from 16 games to 18.

“I hope our conference never thinks of having conference games during the holidays,” Krzyzewski said in 2011, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “We’ve had these long breaks for three reasons. One is academics. For two weeks we really have a tough academic time in December.”

Prepping for a conference game would be difficult to manage during finals week, and Krzyzewski also doesn’t want to play Grinch while trying to prepare for an ACC opener.

“The second thing is that I want our kids home for Christmas,” he said. “We shouldn’t be back here practicing on Christmas Day. I don’t think a college basketball player should do that. We’re not professionals. We’re not the Rockettes, the Knicks or the Rangers or the Giants. Those guys are professionals. I hope our conference never schedules conference games during this (post-Christmas) week. I think that’s a big mistake.”

Krzyzewski will be able to take full advantage of his third reason for preferring early-December ACC games to late.

“The third thing for us is it gives us a chance to evaluate what we’ve done and make some changes as we go forward,” he said.

With Duke showing shaky defense in the B.C. loss, there will be plenty of evaluation going on in Durham.