Here’s an easy way to skew a statistic.
Say, for instance, you’re looking at the last time ACC teams lost their first games of the season. If you didn’t know any better you’d fix on 2020 and think a wave of futility swept through the conference, resulting in more openers dropped than at any time in modern memory.
But you’d also need to know the ACC inaugurated its 20-game intraleague schedule that year, assigning a number of those clashes as season debuts as a way to gin up interest.
The result? Six teams lost their openers that year.
Far more revealing of the ACC’s soft underbelly were the four openers league squads dropped last season, including several rather shockingly. Eventual ACC champion Georgia Tech lost in four overtimes at home to Georgia State (followed by an unpromising 10-point defeat at home against Mercer), and Pitt lost at home to in-state lightweight St. Francis.
Back in 2013 Virginia’s home defeat by George Mason was a similar eye-opener. So, to a lesser extent, was Virginia Tech’s home loss to Alabama State in 2016.
Such openers are customarily regarded as tune-ups, breathers, unless something goes surprisingly wrong.
Two of the more interestingly dubious debuts were turned in by Duke and UNC in the early 2000s.
With stellar playmaker Raymond Felton suspended for one game due to a minor offseason NCAA rule infraction, Roy Williams’ second Tar Heel squad lost at Oakland to Santa Clara en route to the Maui Invitational. They then proceeded to win 14 straight over the following two months and eventually won the ‘05 NCAA title.
Duke, coming off a 37-2 season that culminated with a loss to UConn in the 1999 NCAA championship game, lost its ’00 opener at Madison Square Garden to Stanford. Another MSG defeat immediately followed, again at the hands of Connecticut.
The Blue Devils, with five double-figure scorers led by upperclassmen Shane Battier and Chris Carrawell, proceeded to win their next 18 games, won the ACC Tournament, and fell to Florida in the Sweet 16.
Duke also came away with a one-point win (77-76) against an underappreciated Belmont squad coached by Rick Byrd in its opener at Cameron in November 2011.
This season, all but three ACC openers are scheduled for Nov. 9. Penn plays at Florida State and William & Mary is at Wake on Wednesday, Nov. 11. Notre Dame brings up the rear, hosting Cal State Northridge on the 13th.
No ACC member opens against a conference opponent in 2021-22, and none plays on a hostile court.
|EAGER TO AVOID EYE-OPENING RESULTS
(All Games Home Except DU-UK, $ Indicates Under Current Coach)
|Team||'21-22 Opponent||Last Loss To Open||Site||Season|
|C||Presbyterian||Virginia Tech, 60-67$||H||2020|
|D||Kentucky, N||Stanford, 79-80$||N||2000|
|GT||Miami (Ohio)||Georgia St, 120-123 (4 OT)$||H||2021|
|UL||Southern||Iowa, 69-70 (OT)*||N||2004|
|NC||Loyola (Md)||Santa Clara, 66-77||A||2005|
|NS||Bucknell||Georgia Tech, 81-82 (OT)$||A||2020|
|ND||Cal State Northridge||Michigan State, 70-80$||A||2021|
|UP||The Citadel||St. Francis (Pa.), 70-80$||H||2021|
|V||Navy||George Mason, 59-63$||H||2013|
|VT||Maine||Alabama State. 82-85||H||2016|
|WF||William & Mary||Boston College, 70-77||A||2020|
|*Prior to joining ACC.|