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ACC Openers Good And Bad

The idea is to get wins but it doesn’t always work out that way

Belmont v Duke
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Andre Dawkins #20 of the Duke Blue Devils collects a loose ball against the Belmont Bruins at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 11, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke defeated Belmont 77-76.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

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.

(All Games Home Except DU-UK, $ Indicates Under Current Coach)
Team '21-22 Opponent Last Loss To Open Site Season
BC Dartmouth Villanova, 67-76 N 2021
C Presbyterian Virginia Tech, 60-67$ H 2020
D Kentucky, N Stanford, 79-80$ N 2000
FS Pennsylvania Pittsburgh, 61-63$ A 2020
GT Miami (Ohio) Georgia St, 120-123 (4 OT)$ H 2021
UL Southern Iowa, 69-70 (OT)* N 2004
UM Canisius Louisville, 74-87$ H 2020
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
SU Lafayette Virginia, 34-48$ H 2020
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.