Thursday, March 14, 2013

the acc next year

Apologies for the slight AWOL period.  I got hit with a wave of homework and a cold that could go either way at this point.  I think we'll know more tomorrow.  I will tell you what, man, there is absolutely no worse cold symptom than a sore throat.  I hate it.  If you have a fever with your cold it's a great thing.  It's your body going, OK you bastards, let's crank up the heat in here and see how you like it.  But a sore throat ruins everything.  I suck down Halls cough drops like the fat kid at the donut buffet.  That stuff is a ridiculously underrated modern miracle.  Candy with medicinal value.  It's like if Reese's Pieces were a hangover cure. 

Enough of my bitching.  I thought we'd take a look at the state of the ACC next year now that it's going to have one more semi-surprise member.  And let's be clear one more time: Adding Notre Dame is a great thing for the ACC, all things considered.  Adding them sooner is a bonus.  I'll stipulate to the following:

-- That things were much better in the good old days when we could count on playing basketball against everyone twice and conference realignment wasn't a thing

-- That South Bend, Indiana is nowhere near the Atlantic Coast

-- That the Domers can be awfully snooty

-- That not being all-the-way football members is a compromise of principles on the ACC's part.  (But five football games a year ain't to be sneezed at either.)

I don't care; the ACC is doing what it has to here, and it's a clear boost to the ACC's value.  What I want to do for now, though, is to take a look at what the ACC might look like next year.  I'd like it if the ACC were to come out with some comprehensive announcement, even if it takes til May, that lays it all out sport by sport.  But I doubt they will, which gives me a little window to try my hand yet again at the art of procrastination.  I mean prognostication.


I know, Notre Dame isn't technically a football member.  Neither will the five-games-a-year deal begin this fall; it's too late for that and is in the interest of nobody involved to try and make that happen.  So wait til 2014.  The question then becomes: Is UVA one of the teams that will get Notre Dame on its schedule then, or do we wait?  Let's remember that with 14 football-playing teams, it's roughly once every three years that we'll see Notre Dame, assuming they rotate it evenly.  UVA's OOC agenda for 2014 includes home games against UCLA, Kent State, and Richmond, and a trip to BYU.  I would guess unless UVA is willing to buy out Kent State or Richmond, Notre Dame ain't happening that year.  Openings remain in both 2015 and 2016.

Interestingly, UVA has a 2017 game scheduled against William & Mary, and not only that, the date is set.  2017 is full.  The official site just recently added the 2016-2017 UConn series, even though I don't remember ever seeing an official announcement.  (It's been on my future schedules page, though.)  But the 2015 date with the Tribe is TBA.  Perhaps because UVA has been told to be flexible?  Shall we take these tea leaves to mean that the ACC has told UVA to go ahead and schedule stuff for 2014 and 2017 and keep 2015 open?  I think we shall.  Let's place our bets on 2015 being the first year of UVA's involvement in the Notre Dame series.


OK, now we can talk about what the ACC will look like next year.  Which is to say, a 15-team league playing 18 games apiece.  That means you can play four teams twice and everyone else once.  Two of your four home-and-home teams are your permanent schedule buddies.  ND gets BC and GT.  (A nod to the Rudy game?  An enticement to help retain GT's loyalty over persistent Big Ten speculation?  Possibilities abound.)  Ours don't change - we're one of four teams who keep the same schedule buddies from this year to next.  The others are NC State, Clemson, and FSU.  Since ours are VT and Maryland, obviously that arrangement is temporary.  I am highly in favor, by the way, of the 18-game road schedule for Maryland that was proposed on Twitter.  The chances of this remain low, but one can dream.

The basketball tourney is likely to be an interesting matter.  The ACC long ago made sure to have it known that the tournament would continue to include everyone.  But what's the bracket gonna look like?  They haven't said anything except for this announcement from last October, when Notre Dame first became a thing: "The Tournament will begin with three games on Wednesday, followed by four games on Thursday and Friday, two semifinals on Saturday and the championship game on Sunday. The top four seeds will continue to receive byes into Friday's quarterfinal round."

What that basically is, is the old Big East format, minus one game.  Picture the current 12-team bracket.  There are four first-round games.  Now attach one game to each one of those, so that the bottom 8 teams have to play for the right to play the 5-8 seeds.  9-16, 10-15, 11-14, and 12-13.  The top four seeds, then, have a double-round bye, and the next four have a single-round bye.  It's a fun tourney style, really.  That's what I'd bet on for the ACC, except without the 9-16 game.  Four games a day until the semifinals (ok, three the first day), so it's very TV-friendly (and venue-friendly), and you get to start on Wednesday for five full days of tourney action.

As for next season's ACC/B1G Challenge (which is even what the ACC official release is calling it - I must say, I didn't like the new Big Ten logo but it was awfully nice of them to finally give us a three-character abbreviation) it will leave out Clemson, VT, and Wake, for being outside the conference's RPI top 12.


Adding Notre Dame solved a potential very big scheduling problem: namely, what to do with an odd number of teams since Syracuse doesn't have one.  Notre Dame simply makes the ACC a 14-team baseball league.  And interestingly, the ACC has managed to poach three of the Big East's four best baseball teams.  Pittsburgh isn't completely horrible, Notre Dame's decent for a northern team, and of course Louisville has had a legit tourney team for a while now.  (St. John's used to be good, too, and was assigned to the Charlottesville regional a few times, but has started this year 3-11.)

I digress.  What will the ACC look like next year?  Louisville won't be part of the equation yet, so even with the Big East's higher-level squads, the conference is a bit watered-down.  This would be a great chance to dispense with the idea of divisions, which are stupid and useless for baseball, but they're not that smart.  So with Syracuse in football's Atlantic Division, it's not hard to imagine that Notre Dame will simply take their place in baseball.

As for the tournament, that's been decided too: "Beginning with the 2014 season, the ACC Baseball Championship will feature 10 teams in a six-day event. A double-elimination format will be used Tuesday through Friday followed by two single-elimination games on Saturday and the Championship Game on Sunday."  The "two single-elimination games on Saturday" scream "semifinals" pulled from the winners of two separate pods of five.  How they plan to do that, I can't figure.  It will tax the shit out of a pitching staff, though.

From a competition standpoint, ND will probably slide into the middle of the Atlantic, below FSU, Clemson, and NC State but somewhat above Maryland and a decent ways above Wake and BC.  They'll drop in the pecking order when Louisville replaces the Terps.  Pitt may have less success than they're used to, because the Coastal is tougher.  UVA, UNC, GT, and Miami should all be better than the Panthers; VT may even surprise and finish above them too.


This will be so much fun that it'll be a shame to lose Maryland.  The ACC will have six teams, all of which play outstanding lacrosse, and for one year it'll be an autobid conference.  You can guess the tourney format with your eyes closed, of course: 1 and 2 get byes while the rest play.  I don't picture the ACC leaving anyone out.  The point is to have ourselves a big ol' RPI-fest and inflate the shit out of that statistic.

This is the one sport where UVA's schedule will be affected more than any other.  Adding Syracuse wasn't going to change anything except for maybe the timing of the game.  (UVA tends to prefer to play all its ACC games last, and Syracuse has, for a recent little while, been the first marquee OOC opponent.)  Adding Notre Dame will force someone off the schedule.  The likely candidate is Ohio State, whom we started playing in 2011.  I guess I could see it being Cornell, but then again I really can't.  And as mentioned, the timing of the games will probably shuffle a little.

If you'll let me step outside the next-year theme, by the way, even by losing Maryland the ACC has a chance to keep the autobid in 2015 and beyond: by bringing in Johns Hopkins, which has decided to "formally" explore conference affiliation.  They will, of course, get to pick and choose their conference and join on their terms, as they'll have several suitors.  I've been mildly pushing for the ACC to invite Hopkins as an associate member for a little while now; I think it's time to basically make "add Hopkins" an official platform plank of this blog, right next to "ban corporate names on bowl games."  If the decision were about lacrosse only, the ACC would basically be Hopkins's only natural choice; add research dollars and academia into the equation, though, and the Big Ten and their CIC research arm become awfully inviting.

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