North Carolina

The road is especially unwelcoming in the ACC this season

cliddy@newsobserver.com

Winning road games in the ACC is difficult. One day you’re triumphantly taking down a conference opponent on its home court, and then you wake up and realize it has been 1,089 days, and counting, since your most recent ACC road victory.

Where does the time go, Wake Forest?

The Demon Deacons won at Virginia Tech on Jan. 22, 2014. And since? They’ve lost 25 consecutive road games in conference play, including a pair of 0-9 records on the road in the ACC in each of the past two seasons.

Wake Forest has taken road futility to new, miserable heights in recent seasons. But misery loves company, as the old saying goes, and the Demon Deacons certainly aren’t alone in their inability to win on the road. Especially this season.

It’s early, yet, only two weeks into conference play. If the current trend continues, though, this will be the worst year for ACC road teams since the conference became a 15-team league in time for the 2013-14 season. Through Sunday night, and Georgia Tech’s 86-76 victory at N.C. State, road teams were 12-25 in conference play.

If percentages are more your thing, road teams are winning about 30.5 percent of the time in the ACC. That’s the lowest percentage, by a pretty good margin, since the expansion to 15 teams. Granted, two weeks doesn’t provide a voluminous sample size.

But it’s large enough to show that the numbers don’t appear to be skewed. It’d be one thing, for instance, if Duke had lost one or even two road games. But the Blue Devils have lost all three times they’ve played on a conference opponent’s home floor.

N.C. State is 0-3 on the road, too. And regardless of what coach Mark Gottfried says, losing at Boston College – which is now 5-24 at home since 2013-14 – is a terrible loss, especially given the Wolfpack was attempting to show some life after a historically awful 51-point loss at North Carolina.

Speaking of the Tar Heels, don’t forget about their debacle of a road performance, too – which came in a 13-point defeat at Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve. Then UNC needed overtime to win at Clemson, which hoped to ascend to the ACC’s upper echelon but is instead 1-4 after losing against Virginia.

The Cavaliers have lost but two home games since 2014. One of them came earlier this month against Florida State, which looked like it might be the ACC’s best team. Until, that is, the Seminoles lost 96-83 at UNC on Saturday.

Two weeks into conference play, and three of the ACC’s 15 teams have winning records on the road. UNC is 2-1, same as Virginia. Notre Dame, which is 3-0 on the road 5-0 in the ACC overall, is alone in first place, after a 76-71 victory at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

You might think: Yeah, well it’s early. Teams will find more success on the road.

And maybe that’s true. Last season, though, only two teams finished with winning road records in ACC play: North Carolina (6-3) and Duke (5-4). All five of Miami’s conference losses a year ago were on the road. Same thing with all five of Virginia’s ACC defeats.

Louisville lost six ACC games, five on the road. Notre Dame lost seven ACC games, five on the road.

We’re not splitting the atom here. Reaching the conclusion that it’s difficult to win on the road in the ACC is a little less complicated than bending space and time, which is something Wolfpack fans might consider doing if it means they can figure out a way for N.C. State to avoid wasting Dennis Smith Jr.’s lone college season.

And yet the road rule isn’t constant, either. During the 2014-15 season, road teams won 43.7 percent of the time in ACC play. Seven conference teams finished the year with winning records on the road in the conference. Road teams won 34 percent of the time last year.

And now this, and another drop: road team victories in three out of every 10 ACC games, on average.

Since the ACC became a 15-team league, only four teams have winning overall records on the road: Virginia (21-9), UNC (19-11), Louisville (11-9 since it joined ACC in 2014) and Duke (16-14).

During the same span the Blue Devils have won 25 of their 29 games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. They’re 16-14 in conference games away from home, though – including the three consecutive road ACC losses to start this season.

Duke’s next chance to end its recent road misery is on Jan. 28 at Wake Forest’s Lawrence Joel Coliseum, which for nearly three years running has been the only place the Demon Deacons have been able to win a conference game.

Trending up

1. Notre Dame as the clear ACC favorite

The trio of Bonzie Colson, Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell didn’t look like the ACC’s best entering the season. But now? Now it just might be. Believe in the Fighting Irish.

2. Joel Berry as an ACC Player of the Year candidate

There’s no clear-cut early favorite for ACC Player of the Year, but Berry, the UNC junior guard, has to be moving into the conversation. He’s averaging 23.5 points and four assists over the Tar Heels’ past four games.

Trending down

1. Duke’s national title chances

The Vegas oddsmakers who suggest otherwise need to watch Duke play. The potential is still here but more and more this is looking like the talented-but-somewhat-dysfunctional Blue Devils teams of 2012 and 2014 than the national champs of 2015.

2. Expectations involving N.C. State

Time to a put a moratorium on preseason hopes involving N.C. State, though Wolfpack fans know this already. It’s early, and Duke is giving it a run, but no ACC team is doing less with more – including the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft – than the Wolfpack.

Final Four

The four worst home-court advantages in the ACC since it became a 15-team league:

1. Conte Forum, Boston College (5-24 since 2013-14 season)

No enthusiasm, no crowds and, true story, Boston cabdrivers don’t know where this is.

2. Cassell Coliseum, Virginia Tech (12-18)

Nine of those 12 home wins have come this year and last, so Hokies are trending up.

3. McCammish Pavilion, Georgia Tech (12-18)

The thrill has been long gone from the Thriller Dome but is the win over UNC a sign of things to come?

4. Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Wake Forest (13-17)

Love the parquet and court design but please, for the love of Tim Duncan, dump the pregame motorcycle.

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

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