Let’s stop with the permanent partners in Atlantic Coast Conference basketball and go to an equity schedule, similar to the NFL. Based on the results of the previous season the higher ranked teams play each other twice and the lower ranked teams play each other twice.
The 2019-20 season – when the conference expands to 20 league games per team – is the right time to do it. ESPN, the major sponsor of all things ACC, may object at first, but in reality, the holder of TV rights will get a better overall broadcast slate.
In the summer of 2016, the ACC voted to expand to the 20-game schedule. Some coaches and athletic directors were for it; several were against it. ESPN wanted more conference games to show on the ESPN Digital Network, a combination of pure broadcast media and mobile device streaming. For the benefit of the conference, Boston College-Clemson games are preferred to a Clemson-Campbell game or a Boston College-SUNY Oswego State game.
My proposal schedules the coming season based on the previous year’s seedings for the ACC tournament. It divides the league into three “PODS” just for scheduling purposes, starts with all teams playing each other once, and adds six duplicate games based on a set formula.
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The teams are placed in numerical order based on the previous season and divided into three groups: teams 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15. Based on the 2016-17 results, the PODs would be:
A: North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Duke
B: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Miami, Wake Forest
C: Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, Pittsburgh, Boston College
The teams in each POD play each other twice, giving each team four additional regular-season games (18 total). The last two games would be assigned with this progressive formula: No. 1 plays No. 6 and No. 11 twice; No. 2 plays No. 7 and No. 12 twice, and so on and so forth. Every year the final standings (tournament seeds) could change, therefore the schedule would change. So, here is the formula for games showing the seed and the opponents for two games:
1 plays two games against 2-3-4-5-6-11
2 plays two games against 1-3-4-5-7-12
3 plays two games against 1-2-4-5-8-13
4 plays two games against 1-2-3-5-9-14
5 plays two games against 1-2-3-4-10-15
6 plays two games against 1-7-8-9-10-11
7 plays two games against 2-6-8-9-10-12
8 plays two games against 3-6-7-9-10-13
9 plays two games against 4-6-7-8-10-14
10 plays two games against 5-6-7-8-9-15
11 plays two games against 1-6-12-13-14-15
12 plays two games against 2-7-11-13-14-15
13 plays two games against 3-8-11-12-14-15
14 plays two games against 4-9-11-12-13-15
15 plays two games against 5-10-11-12-13-14
Here is the proposed two-game schedule for UNC, Duke, NC State and Wake Forest based on the 2016-17 results:
UNC (No. 1) plays two games against Florida State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Duke, Virginia and Georgia Tech.
Duke (No. 5) plays two games against UNC, Florida State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Wake Forest and Boston College.
N.C. State (No. 13) plays two games against Notre Dame, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Pitt and Boston College.
Wake Forest (No. 10) plays two games against Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Miami, and Boston College.
The teams finishing at the top of the league would have a perceived tougher schedule than those at the bottom. That may not be true depending on returning players, those who do not return and recruits and transfers, but the schedule would be based on the previous season results. The teams at the bottom of the league could have a chance of moving up with a perceived weaker schedule.
ESPN would object because there is a chance the annual two games between UNC and Duke may be reduced to one, if they do not finish in the same group of five teams: 1-5, 6-10 or 11-15. So, since ESPN wants two UNC-Duke games each season, just make it happen. Guarantee two UNC-Duke games by adjusting the schedule when it doesn’t happen by this proposed scheduling plan.
Doing away with permanent partners is the key to a more balanced schedule. Some N.C. State fans may not like limiting games with UNC to one a season, but some would like that idea. Overall, the league could balance itself year after year. And, actually, this formula could be used immediately for the 18-game schedule, just don’t add the two extra duplicate opponents outside the POD.
It’s just a thought and should be considered.
Jim Pomeranz is a Cary writer and blogger.