Local basketball teams prepare for expanded ACC schedule

League goes to 20 games, early start to season

The two regular season games between Roy Williams’ Tar Heels and Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils will take place 27 days apart, the biggest gap since 2008. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

The ACC released the first 20-game conference basketball schedule in league history last week.

The conference slate for each team was increased by two games, against the protests of many league coaches, to help provide content for the new ACC Network.

The network also necessitated an earlier-than-usual start to conference play this year. Every team will be in action before the traditional break for final exams in the second week of December.

Duke opens at Virginia Tech on Dec. 6, which is the earliest Duke has played a conference game since Virginia Tech joined the league, requiring a last-minute schedule revamp. The Blue Devils played the Hokies on Dec. 4, 2006.

The Blue Devils open a month later than the other 14 teams in the conference, who play each other on either Nov. 5 or 6, by far the earliest the ACC has gotten into the conference schedule.

The expanded schedule has also wreaked havoc with the traditional home/road games. Duke has a stretch of three straight games in eight days: at Syracuse, at Boston College, and at UNC from Feb. 1 to Feb. 8. It’s the first time since 2015-16 (NC State, Miami, Georgia Tech) that Duke has played three straight conference road games. Prior to that, it hadn’t happened since 1992.

Duke also has a stretch of three straight home games. They host Louisville, Miami and Pitt from Jan. 18 to Jan. 28. This is the third time in four years Duke has had three home games in a row in ACC play. Prior to that, it hadn’t happened since 1992.

UNC also has three home games in a row, hosting Georgia Tech, Pitt and Clemson from Jan. 4 to Jan. 11. It’s the third time in five years Carolina has had that.

NC State gets three straight road games, traveling about as far as it’s possible to go in the conference. The Pack goes to Miami on Feb. 5, Syracuse Feb. 11 and Boston College Feb. 16.

Here’s a look at some of the high and low points of the four in-state teams’ conference slates.

The Rivalry

UNC and Duke have some separation between their two games, which have been drifting closer and closer together in recent years.

The Heels host the Devils on Feb. 8, then travel to Duke on March 7.

The 27 days between the games are the most since 2008 (31 days). The two games were just 17 days apart last season.

UNC and Duke also play both games on Saturdays, the first time they’ve both been on weekend days since 1990-91.


NC State and Wake Forest play in Winston-Salem on Dec. 6 and then finish the ACC conference schedule in Raleigh. (Ethan Hyman / The News & Observer via AP)

NC State plays all three Big Four opponents home-and-home for the first time since 2015-16. The Pack plays its second conference game — on Dec. 6 — at Wake Forest, then closes the regular season home against the Deacs.

The other two in-state rivals come to Raleigh first — UNC on Jan. 27 and Duke on Feb. 19 — before hosting the Pack. State goes to UNC on Feb. 25, Duke on March 2.

Staying close to home

Wake Forest gets three home games in a row Feb. 19-29, hosting Georgia Tech, Duke and Notre Dame. The Deacs then close the regular season with trips to North Carolina and NC State. With the ACC Tournament in Greensboro this year, that means Wake Forest won’t leave the state of North Carolina for at least six straight games — possibly more, if they advance in the tournament.

No-fun day

Another scheduling quirk that always gets coaches hot under the collar is Big Monday — the made-for-ESPN prime time conference games on Monday evening, which gives teams one full day off, after playing on Saturday.

Duke has two Big Monday games, both of which will be tough tasks. The Blue Devils host Florida State on Feb. 10, two days after playing North Carolina on Saturday — likely in prime time — and ending their three-game road trip. Duke also gets a home game against the Wolfpack on March 2, two days after traveling to national champion Virginia.

NC State likely won’t feel much sympathy for Duke’s plight. The Pack has three Big Monday games, one of just three teams with as many (UNC and FSU are the others). State plays at Virginia, at Duke and home against UNC.

The Heels have a gripe of their own with three Big Monday road games — at State, Florida State and Notre Dame.

Wake Forest won’t appear on Big Monday this year, and, despite winning the national championship, Virginia only gets one appearance in the ESPN showcase game.