If precedent prevails, future ACC basketball schedules will work on rotation. No surprises. Teams will know their conference opponents years in advance.
But crafting the 2013-14 schedule was a unique challenge and opportunity. With Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame bringing league membership to 15, ACC officials had to scrap their previous model.
Moreover, in concert with television partner ESPN, they wanted to rapidly introduce the newcomers and their fans to the conference’s most storied programs.
They have done just that, witness Tuesday’s release of league opponents for next season.
Duke and North Carolina are the ACC’s marquee basketball draws, and it’s no coincidence that they, along with Tobacco Road neighbor North Carolina State, play at Notre Dame and Syracuse in 2014. Duke and N.C. State travel to Pitt, as well.
That’s southern hospitality from conference HQ in Greensboro, N.C., and a transparent grasp for ratings from the worldwide leader in Bristol, Conn., both of which are understandable.
Virginia and Virginia Tech, as a result, play less traditional league schedules next season. But if a rotation is created, as it should be, the Cavaliers and Hokies will get their share of games against Duke and North Carolina.
The ACC first adopted a rotation for 2004-05 and beyond. That’s when the additions of Virginia Tech and Miami forced the abandonment of the double round-robin in which a team played every conference rival home-and-home.
With 15 teams, another long-term model is possible, senior associate commissioner for basketball Karl Hicks said via email Wednesday. That would spare Hicks, ESPN and others starting from scratch each year.
Meanwhile, Virginia and Virginia Tech could play relatively tame ACC schedules next season. That’s a potential blessing, in the form of a better record, and a potential curse in the form of a lower strength-of-schedule, a key evaluation tool of the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Unless top 2013 prospect Andrew Wiggins signs with Florida State — both his parents attended FSU — the ACC’s top three teams in 2013-14 figure to be Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse. Neither the Hokies nor Cavaliers play any of those squads twice.
Virginia and Virginia Tech each play Syracuse and North Carolina only at home, Duke only on the road. The Hokies and Cavaliers do travel to league newcomers Notre Dame and Pitt.
Of the four teams Virginia plays twice — Virginia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame and Florida State — the Fighting Irish (six NCAA tournaments in the last seven years) or Seminoles appear to be the best, again hinging on Wiggins, who’s deciding among FSU, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas.
Of the Hokies’ home-and-homes — Virginia, Miami, Boston College and Maryland — the Cavaliers are the toughest, regardless of whether Hurricanes sophomore guard Shane Larkin declares for the NBA draft.
The ACC’s can’t-miss, first-time home-and-home in 2014 is Duke-Syracuse. Hall of Fame coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim are close friends — Boeheim was an assistant to Krzyzewski for the 2008 and ’12 Olympics — and rank 1-2 in Division I career victories.
Their teams have met twice, the Orange winning in the 1989 ACC-Big East Challenge in Greensboro, Boeheim’s favorite city (wink), the Blue Devils winning in the 1998 NCAA South Regional semifinals.
More obscure: Boeheim’s final game as a Syracuse player was in the 1966 East Regional final against Duke in N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum. He scored 15 points in a 91-81 loss that sent the Blue Devils to their third Final Four in four years.
Speaking of Reynolds, this will never happen, but I’d love to see Pitt’s 2014 game at N.C. State — the Wolfpack relocated to a new arena in 1999 — moved to the old barn. Why? History.
Reynolds hosted the 1974 East Regional, and the finalists were N.C. State and Pitt. First-team All-American David Thompson led the Wolfpack, second-teamer Billy Knight the Panthers.
State won comfortably, 100-72, but in the first half, Thompson, an aerial artist, took a harrowing fall after blocking a shot. He caught teammate Phil Spence’s shoulder on his descent, and the subsequent thud silenced the crowd and left blood on the court.
Thompson was rushed to the hospital but returned to the arena, head bandaged and stitched, to observe the second half. A week later, he led the Wolfpack over seven-time defending champion UCLA and Marquette to claim State’s first national title.
The site of that Final Four? Greensboro Coliseum, host of the 2014 ACC tournament.
College basketball’s pioneer conference tournament, the ACC’s next year certainly will be bigger than ever. And perhaps better.
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