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ACC Debuts Aren’t Always As Successful As This Year

Generally ACC teams win openers but last year had some challenges

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NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Duke at Kentucky
 Nov 6, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Cam Reddish (2) dunks against Kentucky Wildcats guard Ashton Hagan (2) in the second half during the Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Brian Spurlock-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 last season.

This year the real possibility of defeat was present in two games against elite clubs. The rest were relatively easy debuts, although Wake’s opening loss to Georgia Southern last November shows the tenuousness of such assumptions.

Duke faced Kentucky and defeated the Wildcats with surprising ease, 118-84, on Nov. 6 in the Champions Classic at Indianapolis, a neutral court in name only that’s about 190 miles from the UK campus. (Think Duke playing Kentucky in Charlotte.) In what might pass for the season-opening, big-name doubleheader some crave in college basketball to match football, Kansas faced Michigan State in the earlier, 7PM game.

Down in Tallahassee on the same day, Florida visited Florida State in an annual rivalry contest that could have quickly test FSU’s ability to follow up on last year’s Elite Eight advance. Didn’t happen as Florida State beat the Gators handily, 81-60.

This year North Carolina was the only ACC team to open on the road – at the unfortunately named Richardson Indoor Stadium at Wofford, the alma mater of the disgraced, deposed, former owner of the Carolina Panthers. He paid for the building. The Tar Heels avenged last season’s upset in Chapel Hill, winning 78-67.

Carolina’s early intrepidity, uncommon for any ACC team, was matched last year only by Pitt. The Panthers lost at Navy in what presaged one of the worst seasons ever by an ACC member (8-24) and the last 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.

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.

Last year was the third in the past six in which ACC teams lost three openers, along with 2013 and 2014.

Last Time ACC Teams Lost In Openers
School Season Opponent 2018 Opener 2018-19 Opener
BC 2017 Nicholls State W Maine St. Francis NY
Clemson 1985 Tenn. Tech W Western Carolina The Citadel
Duke 2000 Stanford W Elon Kentucky (N)
Florida St. 2013 South Alabama W George Washington Florida
Ga. Tech 2018 UCLA L UCLA, 60-63 Lamar
Louisville 2004* Iowa W George Mason Nicholls St.
Miami 2014 St. Francis, Bklyn W Gardner Webb Lehigh
UNC 2005 Santa Clara W Northern Iowa @ Wofford
N.C. State 2016 William & Mary W VMI Mt. St. Mary's
Notre Dame 1999* Miami (Ohio) W St. Francis, Pa. Illinois-Chic
Pittsburgh 2018 Navy L Navy, 71-62 Youngstown
Syracuse 2004* Charlotte W Cornell Eastern Wash
Virginia 2013 George Mason W North Carolina G'boro Towson
Va. Tech 2016 Alabama State W Detroit Mercy Gardner-Webb
Wake Forest 2018 Georgia Southern L Georgia Southern, 83-85 N.C A&T
* 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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