Hellos, farewells highlight ACC basketball schedule

One legend is leaving and another is already gone, leaving large shoes to fill on Tobacco Road

The ACC schedule is out for what will be Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's final year leading the Blue Devils. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

The ACC released its 2021-22 basketball schedule last week as the league prepares for a year of transition.

The conference is down one Hall of Fame coach already, and another is heading into his final trip around the ACC. The league is also looking to be a factor late into the NCAA Tournament after a year in which no team had a seed higher than four and the conference was eliminated in the Sweet 16.

Here’s a look at the most interesting games and stretches in the season to come.

Welcome to the new guys

The ACC welcomes two new coaches this year. The biggest name is longtime UNC assistant Hubert Davis, who takes over the Tar Heels for Roy Williams. Davis’ welcome-to-the-ACC moment will come on the road against Georgia Tech on Dec. 5. His first ACC home game comes 24 days later when the Tar Heels host Virginia Tech. Davis’ first overall game as coach will be Nov. 9 at home against Loyola of Maryland.

Boston College also welcomes a new coach in Earl Grant. He opens his BC career with a home game against Dartmouth on Nov. 9. His first ACC game is Dec. 3 at home against Notre Dame and his first trip is to Wake Forest on Dec. 22. Grant was an assistant at Clemson under Brad Brownell for four seasons, and he meets the Tigers in an ACC game for the first time on the road on Jan. 15.

Final farewell

Duke will be playing one last season under coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has been in Durham since 1980. The Blue Devils open the ACC season at home against the Hokies and close it at home against the Tar Heels in a game at Cameron that may be the toughest ticket in the rivalry’s history.

Unbalanced schedule

The league plays a 20-game schedule again, with each team playing home-and-homes against six other teams, a home game only against four teams, and a road game only against four. The biggest beneficiary of the schedule may be Boston College, which plays single games against Duke, UNC, Virginia, Florida State and Louisville. Clemson may have gotten the toughest draw, with two games against FSU, Virginia, Duke and defending ACC Tournament champion Georgia Tech.

Short notice

The least popular aspect of the ACC schedule is the Saturday-Monday turnaround. Most weeks during the season, two lucky teams get to play on ESPN’s Big Monday on less than 48 hours rest. Louisville, Virginia and UNC all have to make the quick turnaround three times this season. Both UNC-Louisville games are on Big Monday, including one that comes after UNC faces NC State the Saturday before. Carolina also has Monday games in back-to-back weeks in late February. Duke faces Virginia on Monday, two days after the first UNC game.

Tough stretches for N.C. teams

NC State has back-to-back road games at Louisville and Duke in mid-January. The Wolfpack, which have frequently found themselves on the NCAA bubble down the stretch, closes with UNC at home followed by two road games — at Wake and Florida State.

Duke also has a tough closing stretch. Before hosting Carolina in an emotional final game at Cameron for Coach K, Duke has three straight road games, with Krzyzewski’s last trips to Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt, the latter game against former Coach K player and assistant Jeff Capel.

UNC’s final two weeks consist of games against Louisville, at NC State, home against Syracuse and at Duke.

Wake’s toughest stretch comes in January with the following seven games: FSU, Syracuse, Duke, at Virginia, at Georgia Tech, UNC and at Syracuse.

Nonconference games to watch

Other than Davis’ first at UNC, the nonconference slate for the in-state teams has some other can’t-miss gems. Davis will continue Roy Williams’ tradition of playing true road games with a trip to the College of Charleston. The Heels also face a loaded field in the Hall of Fame Tipoff, opening with Purdue and then getting either Villanova or Tennessee the next day.

NC State drew Nebraska at home in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge but plays a more daunting Big Ten foe 11 days later when the Pack face Purdue in Brooklyn. State also has Oklahoma State in Connecticut early in the season.

Duke opens with Kentucky at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic. The first home game will be against Coach K’s alma mater and first head coaching stop — Army. The Blue Devils also head to Las Vegas in late November to play Gonzaga.

Wake Forest plays eight nonconference home games, including the Big Ten Challenge against Northwestern. The only time it leaves the state is to play in the Emerald Coast Classic in Destin, Florida, against Oregon State and then either Penn State or LSU. The only other time the Deacs leave Lawrence Joel Coliseum is to play Charlotte in the Spectrum Center in December.