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Stumbling Out Of The Gate

Blowing openers around the ACC

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NCAA Basketball: Elon University at Duke
Nov 10, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Marvin Bagley III (35) lays the ball up during the second half against the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 97-68.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

With 15 ACC teams it would be difficult to go through a series of season openers without a stumble or two. Or three, as it turned out these past few days.

Debut games rarely pit ACC clubs against the game’s elite. There was one such contest on November 10, Georgia Tech against UCLA in Shanghai, China. The story of the contest was overshadowed by the bizarre tale of three Bruins who were arrested for shoplifting at three different stores, their sense of American exceptionalism apparently extending to their view of abiding by local laws.

The trio of sidelined UCLA players nearly matched the pair of Yellow Jackets left behind in Atlanta after the school self-reported improper gifts from a friend of coach Josh Pastner. Former friend, probably.

All in all, a sterling representation of the solid citizenship prominent in NCAA circles. And, by the way, UCLA won 63-60.

Even more uncommon is the opener in which an ACC squad plays on the road. This year there was just one – Pitt at Navy. The Panthers lost 71-62 in what promises to be a second dismal season under Kevin Stallings. In their next outing, the Midshipmen lost by 30 at Miami.

The Pitt stop was perhaps the biggest road shock in an ACC opener since Virginia’s loss in 2013 at George Mason.

Speaking of the Patriots, they fell in their opener at Louisville on Sunday as the Cardinals were the last ACC team to get going.

One might argue the honor for worst recent loss in an opener goes to NC State after its home defeat by William & Mary in 2015-16, a stumble made more costly by an ankle injury that sidelined shooter Terry Henderson for the season.

ACC teams have endured other opening embarrassments on friendly floors in the past few years: Virginia Tech dropped a matchup with Alabama State at Blacksburg in 2015-16, and Boston College was bested by Nicholls State at home last season.

Wake Forest made its own unhappy debut the other day, losing 85-83 to Georgia Southern in the opener for both teams.

This was the third time in the past six seasons ACC teams lost three openers, along with 2013 and 2014. Last year only BC stumbled right out of the gate.

Last Time ACC Teams Lost In Openers
School Season Opponent 2017-18 Opener
BC 2017 Nicholls State W Maine
Clemson 1985 Tenn. Tech W Western Carolina
Duke 2000 Stanford W Elon
Florida St. 2013 South Alabama W George Washington
Ga. Tech 2018 UCLA L UCLA, 60-63
Louisville 2004* Iowa W George Mason
Miami 2014 St. Francis, Bklyn W Gardner Webb
UNC 2005 Santa Clara W Northern Iowa
N.C. State 2016 William & Mary W VMI
Notre Dame 1999* Miami (Ohio) W St. Francis, Pa.
Pittsburgh 2018 Navy L Navy, 71-62
Syracuse 2004* Charlotte W Cornell
Virginia 2013 George Mason W North Carolina Greensboro
Va. Tech 2016 Alabama State W Detroit Mercy
Wake Forest 2018 Georgia Southern L Georgia Southern, 83-85
* Prior to ACC membership.

Most Recent Time 2017-18 ACC Loser Dropped Opener
School Season Opponent
Ga. Tech 1994 Michigan
Pittsburgh 1997* Illinois State
Wake 2011 Stetson

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