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Bad Starts By ACC Teams

the worst opening stretches by ACC teams, before and after they joined the conference.

Maui Invitational - Texas Tech v Louisville
 LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 22: JaeLyn Withers #24 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass as he is double teamed by Jaylon Tyson #20 and Kevin Obanor #0 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the second half of the game during the Maui Invitational at Lahaina Civic Center on November 22, 2022 in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Stumble out of the gate in a long season and it’s a lamentable down note, though hardly cause for alarm. Stumble again and again and again in a cumulative bellyflop of historic proportion, and however well you recover, you’ve gone a long way toward limiting your postseason options four months later.

That was the case for both Florida State and Louisville before Thanksgiving dawned.

For Florida State, losing four straight to open the 2022-23 season is a tough way to initiate a recovery from a second-division ACC finish and exclusion from the NCAAs for the first time since 2016. FSU’s top two scorers return, which is good news. Neither averaged even 13 points per game last year, which is not so good.

Florida State’s opening skein of defeats, three against in-state opponents, was capped by a home loss against archrival Florida. FSU blew a 17-point halftime lead, giving Gator coach Todd Golden a win in his first outing in the series.

Golden’s gaudy gain sealed the worst debut for a Leonard Hamilton club in his 21 years at FSU, matching the nadir for any coach at Tallahassee since J.K. Kennedy worked the sidelines in 1960. That earlier 4-game slide was last surpassed in the 1950s, when Florida State teams lost a dozen in a row to start the 1952 season and nine to begin in 1957.

Until this month FSU had won three straight openers; its worst previous start as an ACC member was 0-3 in 2000-01. That squad was coached by Steve Robinson and finished with a 9-21 record. Robinson was fired two years later and wound up at North Carolina, working as Roy Williams’s top assistant. Robinson is currently an assistant at Arizona under head coach Tommy Lloyd.

Meanwhile Florida State’s flop to inaugurate the ’23 season was matched, then surpassed by Louisville and its rookie college head coach, Kenny Payne.

The Cardinals lost each of their first three games by a hair, then twice were crushed in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational in Hawaii. This year was the first since 2004 in which UL dropped its opener, more than a decade before it joined the ACC.

Back in the 1980s (1981 and 1989) other decks of Cards were twice dealt a trio of consecutive losses to start a season. Curiously, Payne was a co-captain of the ’89 unit.

Those weak starts were nothing compared to the drubbings on the eve of World War II when Louisville opened with 13 defeats in 1939, 17 in 1940, and 11 in 1941 under two different coaches.

Eight consecutive losses to open the season has been the ACC standard, set in 1961 by Virginia. Louisville is up to six, and counting, through Thanksgiving. That matches Clemson’s 1954 squad in the ACC’s inaugural season for the second-worst stumble out of the gate.

Kenny Payne may be a confident man, but surely he’s getting nervous about what he’s gotten into. His Cards next face Maryland, the team whose place they took in the ACC. Then come fellow ACC teams Miami and Florida State.

Not to worry. The most feckless season debut in the modern era among current ACC members was posted by Syracuse in 1961-62, long before it joined the conference, when the Orange lost 22 straight from Dec. 2 through February 28.

Losses To Start A Season By Current ACC Members
(Asterisk Indicates Ongoing Streak)
School Longest Run Of Opening
Losses as ACC Member
Longest Run Of Opening Losses
Pre-ACC by Current Member
Boston College 3-2013 5-1953
Clemson 6-1954 16-1924
Duke 3-1959 3-1929, 1927
Florida State 4- 2023 12-1952
Georgia Tech 2-2020,2000 7-1974
Louisville 6*-2023 17-1940
Miami 1-2014 9-1940
North Carolina 3-2002 3-1929
NC State 2-1994,1977 5-1944
Notre Dame 1-2020,2021 3-1992,1987
Pittsburgh 2-2022 4-1955,1907
Syracuse 1-2020 22-1962
Virginia 8-1961 5-1942
Virginia Tech 1-2016 8-1924
Wake Forest 3-2018, 1968, 1958 6-1934