Have you ever gotten a gift, torn off the wrapping paper, then been completely disappointed by what was inside?
Well, that was the beginning of last year’s basketball season for the Atlantic Coast Conference. All but one ACC team opened its 2019-2020 college basketball seasons playing a conference game (Duke faced Kansas in the Champions Classic). However, these games did not live up to expectations, forcing the ACC to change its scheduling strategy for the upcoming year.
The awful showing that was Virginia-Syracuse was one of the main disappointments from college basketball’s opening week. The game was an absolute rock fight. Neither team reached 50 points, the Orange shot 24% from the field, and UVA turned the ball over 16 times.
Unfortunately, the latter two statistics trended throughout the other six ACC contests. Half of the teams recorded a field goal percentage below 40%, and 10 out of 12 teams had double digit turnovers. The sloppiness and overall drag of the games made for a mostly poor viewing experience.
The disappointing part of the whole thing was the ACC used the early season conference games to sneakily promote the release of the new ACC Network. Sure, it made sense to attract eyeballs, but the product on the court did not live up to anyone’s expectations. Coach Jim Boeheim described it best in his post-Virginia presser.
Beginning the season with a non-conference opponent makes sense in every aspect of basketball. The first game of the campaign, no matter the opponent, will draw in revenue. Playing a “cupcake” team helps the better squad develop and build chemistry. And most importantly, it starts the season off on the right foot with a tally in the win column. If a school chooses to schedule other power five schools or play in a holiday tournament, that is its own choice. No team should be forced into a game with postseason implications right off the bat.
This upcoming season, the ACC made the right choice.
If the ACC had chosen to start the season with conference games, the contests would’ve been eyesores. Most of the top teams in the ACC have to find new identities. Multiple freshmen will start for both UNC and Duke. Virginia is now without Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key. Louisville’s Jordan Nwora and Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes have both passed up on their last seasons and entered the NBA Draft. Landers Nolley Ⅱ, Virginia Tech’s top scorer from last season, transferred to Memphis. Six players left the Wake Forest program. This season, a new crop of talent will emerge in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the correct scheduling will fully assist its development.