ACC basketball coaches consider 20-game league schedule

ACC men’s basketball coaches have found reason to criticize the league’s schedule in recent years, both because of how games are spaced throughout it and also because of its imbalance, with some teams playing more difficult schedules than others.

And so it was that the league’s head coaches spent a significant amount of time discussing the schedule on Tuesday at the ACC’s annual spring meetings. Don’t expect any major changes – not now, anyway.

But a 20-game conference schedule – one that would help address, but not solve, the problem of scheduling inequity – could be coming sooner than later.

“It’s coming down the tracks here a little bit and we may see that one pretty soon,” said Mark Gottfried, the N.C. State coach.

The ACC expanded the conference schedule from 16 to 18 games before the start of the 2012-13 season. The conference made the move in anticipation of becoming a 15-team league.

Short of a true round-robin – which would require 28 league games – the conference schedule will always be kinder on some teams than it is on others. The 18-game schedule, though, has received plenty of criticism because of the amount of inequity that it creates.

A 20-game league schedule wouldn’t solve that problem, but it would allow for two more home-and-home series and, in theory, more of an opportunity for balance. With the 18-game schedule, teams play twice annually against four other teams, two of them permanent scheduling partners.

That accounts for eight conference games. In the other 10 games, teams play once against the league’s other 10 teams – five of those games at home and five on the road.

A 20-game ACC schedule would allow teams to play twice against six teams. That would account for 12 games, with the other eight coming against the other eight teams – four at home and four on the road.

There’s no timetable for the change, if it even happens at all. Gottfried, for one, is in favor of it, though.

“No other league in the country plays conference 20 games,” he said. “And now you’re talking about maybe the toughest, best, deepest conference in America going to 20. Some people might say, ‘Whew – that’s a lot to bite off there.’

“At the same time if you consider that’s more games against higher RPI teams, that’s got to help your RPI.”

That’s Gottfried’s argument – that an expanded ACC schedule would help the league secure more NCAA tournament bids, because it would force teams to play, in theory, to more games against quality competition. The counter to that, though, is that if the ACC adopted a 20-game league schedule, teams would likely be less willing to play more difficult games outside the conference.

Roy Williams, the North Carolina coach, raised that point when he discussed the possibility of a 20-game schedule. He said increasing the schedule to 20 games wouldn’t be “making any difference.”

“We play a pretty doggone significant non-conference schedule,” Williams said. “We play Kentucky, we’ve played Connecticut, we’ve played Arizona – we’re always going to do those kinds of things.

“And … everybody says you want to have more inventory of big-time games, so play more conference games. But if we play more conference games, I’m not going to play all those non-conference games, too.”

Williams last season was an outspoken critic of the construction of the league’s schedule, which varied widely for his team. At times the Tar Heels played often, with several games clustered together. Other times there was a long break between games.

“We played six games in 12 days and then we play one game in 12 days,” he said. “And I wish we could do something different about that. And so that’s what I would like to talk about.”