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Unusual ACC Openers For Duke And State

An interesting basketball insight

TJ Warren has become the clear focus of State's offense
TJ Warren has become the clear focus of State's offense
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Watching Duke lose its ACC opener was a bit unexpected, given that Mike Krzyzewski's team was favored and seventh-ranked. The Blue Devils had won five straight, hadn't dropped an ACC opener since 2007, and faced a Notre Dame squad still recovering from the loss of senior Jerian Grant, its top scorer and team leader.

Not only that, the Devils led by 10 in the second half only to fall, 79-77.

Watching N.C. State lose its ACC opener was less surprising, but still a bit of a shock given that Mark Gottfried's 10-3 squad was at home, had won 8 of its previous 9, and faced a Pittsburgh team that had largely avoided difficult nonconference opposition.

What's more, the Wolfpack led by 15 points in the first half before dropping a 74-62 verdict.

Furthering the fascination, both Notre Dame and Pitt were making their ACC debuts. Both Duke and Pitt were also playing their first true road games - that is, finally appearing on a hostile court in their 14th contests of the 2013-14 season.

Throw in Syracuse's home win over Miami, and all three conference newcomers enjoyed triumphant arrivals in their new surroundings.

For what it's worth, among products of the league's previous expansion, Boston College was the victor in its first ACC game, at home against Clemson on Nov. 26, 2004. Miami and Virginia Tech lost their debuts as league members the previous season.

But back to recent events. The loss at South Bend was only the eighth defeat in an ACC opener for Krzyzewski in his 34 seasons at Duke, and only his fifth in the past 31 years. His teams are 26-8 overall at the start of ACC races.

What's more, 2014 is just the third time in those stumbling starts the Devils followed an opening loss with a victory. They handled Georgia Tech with relative ease three days after dropping the verdict at Notre Dame -- which in turn suffered a happiness hangover by losing its subsequent game against the Wolfpack.

During Krzyzewski's tenure N.C. State has had five head coaches and been less successful in league openers. Yet Jan. 4, 2014 was only the fourth time both schools started the ACC race by stumbling out of the gate since Coach K's arrival for the 1980-81 season. The schools hadn't previously lost ACC openers on the same date during K's tenure.

To extend the unusual nature of the season's start, North Carolina also lost its '14 debut at Wake Forest. The last time all three Triangle schools stumbled out of the gate, that was...


How N.C. State Started ACC Seasons During Krzyzewski Era When Duke Lost League Opener
Duke Loss: N.C. State Result:
Season Opponent Venue W/L Opponent Venue Coach
2014 Notre Dame Away L Pitt Home Gottfried
2007 Va. Tech Home L Virginia Away Lowe
1996 Clemson Away L UNC Away Robinson
1995 Clemson Home W UNC Home Robinson
1991 Virginia Away W Clemson Home Robinson
1983 Virginia Home W Clemson Away Valvano
1982 Virginia Away W Maryland Home Valvano
1981 Virginia Home L Clemson Away Valvano