There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when the men’s basketball teams at North Carolina and N.C. State will not play one another twice per season. But that time has been delayed at least one more season.
The Tar Heels and Wolfpack indeed will play once in Chapel Hill and once in Raleigh next season, according to an email Karl Hicks, the ACC associate commissioner for men’s basketball, sent to North Carolina last month. The university released the email to The News & Observer after a public records request.
The ACC announced in January that the league will adopt a new scheduling format once Pitt and Syracuse join the conference and make it a 14-team league. One of the announced casualties of expansion was the annual home-and-home series between N.C. State and North Carolina.
The teams began playing one another twice per season in 1920, decades before the ACC formed in 1954. But once Pitt and Syracuse begin ACC play, there will be some seasons when the Tar Heels and Wolfpack will play just once.
The ACC is moving to an 18-game conference schedule next season, and teams will be guaranteed annual home-and-home games against just one other conference opponent. For North Carolina, that opponent will be Duke, and for N.C. State, it will be Wake Forest.
“I don’t like it,” N.C. State point guard Lorenzo Brown said during January, after the ACC announced the change. “You shouldn’t change tradition. It has been like that a long time, why would you change it now?”
Fans on both sides of the rivalry wondered the same thing and criticized the news that the schools wouldn’t be guaranteed to play twice per season, despite the recent one-sidedness of the rivalry.
The Tar Heels have defeated the Wolfpack in 13 consecutive games, but both teams will enter next season among the favorites to win the ACC. N.C. State is bringing in a highly rated recruiting class and will return the nucleus of a team that made a run in March to the NCAA tournament Midwest Regional semifinals.
North Carolina, meanwhile, must replace four of the five starters who led the Tar Heels to the Midwest Regional final, but they will return rising sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo and welcome a recruiting class to include Marcus Paige, one of the top point guard prospects in his class.
The dates of the North Carolina-N.C. State games next season have not been determined. The ACC will release the complete schedule this summer. According to Hicks’ email, each ACC team next season will play seven league opponents twice and four teams once.
In addition to N.C. State, North Carolina will play Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami and Virginia twice. The Tar Heels will face Virginia Tech and Wake Forest once, both at home. They will play Boston College and Clemson once, both on the road.