The ACC held its annual basketball schedule release, and once again the league will play a 20-game unbalanced schedule, leading to every coach and fanbase being convinced their team got the raw deal when it came to opponent distribution.
The league once again will have an early December opening conference game, then pick up conference play in earnest at the turn of the new year. The ACC schedule will consist of midweek games on Tuesday or Wednesday and a Saturday game, with one wildly unpopular Monday matchup each week.
With a focus on the four in-state teams, here’s a look at the highs and lows of the upcoming hoops season.
The new guys: Three teams feature new coaches. Notre Dame replaced Mike Brey with Micah Shrewsberry. Syracuse saw legend Jim Boeheim leave, replaced by Adrian Autry, and Georgia Tech welcomes Damon Stoudamire. The league is certainly not easing any of the new guys into things. Syracuse opens ACC play at Virginia and then heads to Duke for its third league game. Notre Dame travels to Miami to open things, followed by home games against Virginia, NC State and Duke. Shrewsberry’s first trip to North Carolina will come at Duke on Feb. 7. Tech opens at home against Duke on Dec. 2 and then heads to Duke in early January.
Big, bad Monday: The league’s TV contract requires two teams a week to do the quick Saturday to Monday turnaround, meaning two coaches a week will conclude that the ACC has it in for them. Duke may have the biggest gripe as the Blue Devils appear on Big Monday three times, the most of any ACC team. Two of those three are road games at venues where Duke lost last season — Virginia Tech and NC State. The third is a home tilt with Wake Forest. UNC and Wake Forest appear twice, along with Virginia, Virginia Tech and Miami. Teams that dodged a Monday game are Florida State, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Louisville and Pitt.
Unbalanced schedule: Duke gets paid back for its many Monday games with the opponents it plays twice. The Blue Devils get home and away games against Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Louisville, all expected to be near the bottom of the league. They also only have one game against contenders Virginia and Miami. UNC has two each against Duke, Miami and FSU. NC State has two against Virginia but only gets one game apiece against league doormats Louisville, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Wake and UNC only play each other once.
Tough and not-so-tough stretches for N.C. teams: Things are set up for Duke to get off to a running start in the league. The Blue Devils open at home against Georgia Tech and Syracuse. Then their first three road games are at Notre Dame, Pitt and Louisville, with home games against Georgia Tech and Pitt mixed in. Pitt is the only team in the group that had a winning league record last year. The other opening opponents combined to go 27-73 in ACC games. The toughest stretch for the Blue Devils comes in mid-February. The Monday home game against Wake Forest is followed by trips to Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest in a seven-day span. Duke also closes the schedule home against Virginia, Monday at NC State and home against UNC.
UNC opens the January ACC schedule with three straight trips: To Pitt, Clemson and NC State, three teams that went 40-20 in ACC games last year. They also have a tough closing stretch, with trips to UVA and Duke bookending home games against Miami, NC State and Notre Dame.
NC State closes January with a daunting three-game stretch, at UVA, at Syracuse and home against Miami. The Wolfpack also closes February and starts March with games at Florida State, at UNC and home against Duke on a Saturday-Monday turnaround.
Wake gets an early December bye in the ACC schedule, but early January is problematic with Miami at home, followed by a trip to FSU, then Virginia at home and a trip to State. The home game against State then starts a mid-February meat grinder with trips to Duke and Virginia, followed by Pitt and Duke again, this time in Winston-Salem.
Nonconference games to watch: Wake heads to Georgia in the second game of the season, then faces Utah to start a tournament in Charleston. The Deacs also have Florida and Rutgers at home. NC State has up to four power conference foes with Vanderbilt and possibly Arizona State in a Las Vegas event, a trip to Ole Miss for the ACC/SEC Challenge, and a game against Tennessee in Texas. Duke plays Arizona at Cameron in a home game against a power conference foe. Even more notable, the Blue Devils will return the favor and head to Arizona to play next year. The Blue Devils also have Michigan State in Chicago, a trip to Arkansas for the Challenge and an MSG game against Baylor. Carolina could face Villanova and either Arkansas, Memphis or Michigan in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Heels’ Challenge foe is Tennessee in Chapel Hill. Then UNC plays a tough three-game stretch of UConn in New York, Kentucky in Atlanta and Oklahoma in Charlotte.