Now that we’re in the homestretch, it’s worth reviewing which teams got the most sympathetic schedules across the season.
There are many sophisticated measures of schedule strength, but for the purposes of this exercise we limited our examination to visits to the turf of the ACC toughest teams. Specifically, since every league member must face everyone else at least once, we looked at whether squads played on the home courts of schools picked prior to the season to finish in the top four by the ACC media.
Reference to that top four -- Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville – may be considered suspect in some quarters, not because the projection wasn’t close to the mark but rather due to who did the selecting.
Here’s how close the picks were, through games of Feb. 25: UNC led the ACC, Louisville was tied with Notre Dame for third at 10-5, and Duke was tied with Miami for fifth at 10-6. Virginia is the laggard, tied with Virginia Tech in seventh at 9-7. Of course the big surprise is Florida State (11-5), in second place after being tabbed to finish eighth.
A variety of media types from around the ACC attended the league’s October preview event in Charlotte. A large contingent belonged to the same organization (Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association) that’s been the arbiter of the official all-league teams for 63 years.
But ACSMA’s expressed judgment is now regarded as an afterthought -- fake news, if you will. The role of choosing post-season award winners has been delegated to others, to hand-picked representatives of each school’s interests. Apparently Gary Williams’ argument there’s a North Carolina voting bias finally fell on receptive ears, six seasons after he retired and three after Maryland fled the ACC.
Based on who played where, we’d give the nod for easiest ACC schedules to Boston College and Clemson, who figured to struggle to reach the conference’s upper echelon, and Virginia, which several times has gotten a break in scheduling over the past half-decade.
The most bracing challenge belonged to Pittsburgh. Only Pitt was required to visit Duke, Louisville, UNC and UVa. The poor Panthers faced Louisville home and away within a two-week span in January, losing both times; visited Carolina and Duke for consecutive losses as January turned to February; and go to Charlottesville on Saturday to conclude the regular season.
Of a possible eight matchups against the supposed top four, Pitt had seven. At least Kevin Stallings’ club didn’t have to visit putative overachievers FSU and Notre Dame.
Of the four teams picked to pace the league, only Duke visits the courts of the other three, with a sojourn to Chapel Hill capping the regular season. FSU similarly ventures to Durham on Tuesday; like Duke it will have visited three of the home courts of the projected top four teams.
The Blue Devils also played in January at Tallahassee and South Bend. Pending a finish against Miami, Leonard Hamilton’s squad is undefeated at home in ACC play and overall.
Team Visits to Home Courts of Top ACC Clubs
(Miami at FSU Pending)
|School||Visited Top 4||Lost at FSU|
|Duke||UL, NC, V||1/10|
|Florida State||D, NC, V||NA|
|Georgia Tech||D, V||Spared|
|North Carolina||D, V||Spared|
|NC State||D, NC||2/8|
|Notre Dame||UL, NC||1/18|
|Pittsburgh||D, UL, NC, V||Spared|
|Virginia Tech||UL, NC||1/7|
|Wake Forest||D, V||12/28|