College Sports

Short Saturday-Monday turnaround offers a unique, but perhaps beneficial, challenge in the ACC

Jerian Grant of the Notre Dame drives to the basket against Michael Young of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Petersen Events Center on January 31. Grant has just about 

single-highhandedly made Notre Dame a top-15 team.
Jerian Grant of the Notre Dame drives to the basket against Michael Young of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the game at Petersen Events Center on January 31. Grant has just about single-highhandedly made Notre Dame a top-15 team. GETTY

There’s not a lot of data, granted, but even if there were it might be difficult to conclude much of anything about how difficult it is – or not difficult it is, perhaps – for teams to complete the Saturday-Monday turnaround.

North Carolina and Virginia will do it again Monday night at the Smith Center in what will be the fifth Monday night game of the season between ACC teams. There still are several more to come.

Are there any noticeable trends that have emerged during the first four Monday night games? Not really.

Road teams are 2-2 in these games, same as home teams. All eight teams involved in the previous four Monday night games played Saturday, leaving not much time to get ready for their Monday opponent.

It hasn’t mattered, it seems, whether a team is coming into Monday night after a victory, or a loss, or whether a team is playing on the road for the second consecutive game or playing at home for the second consecutive game.

Though, it should be noted, North Carolina coach Roy Williams made note of Syracuse’s long trek to Chapel Hill for a Monday night game last week. The trip did not go well for the Orange, which prefers a slow tempo but somehow found itselfin a track meet.

Syracuse allowed 93 points in defeat, the most it has surrendered since that six-overtime game against Connecticut in the 2009 Big East Tournament. But this, at UNC, was merely a 40-minute game. Might the quick turnaround have affected the Orange?

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wouldn’t go that far. And you’re not likely to hear any excuses after the Tar Heels and Cavaliers get together in Chapel Hill on Monday night.

Still, the quick turnaround comes with implications – most of them behind the scenes. The Tar Heels won’t have much time to do a lot of on-court scouting work against Virginia’s pack-line defense. And the Cavaliers, who prefer a significantly slower pace than UNC, won’t have a lot of time to prepare for what the Tar Heels like to do.

“Sunday’s got to be very short to get their legs back and focus a little bit on the other team,” Williams said last week, before his team’s loss at Louisville on Saturday. “And (you) hope that you’ve done throughout the course of the whole season that you’ll be OK.”

This will be UNC’s third and final go-round on Monday night – a fact Williams is well aware of.

“Nobody’s got it more than we do,” he said. “It’s not easy from a stamina viewpoint – Saturday and Monday. One of them you’re usually at home, the other on the road. You hope that you never have two on the road kind of thing.

“But for Saturday, to me it’s a lot tougher if you play Saturday night and then have to travel.”

UNC did that, in reverse, for its first Monday night game. It played at Clemson on Saturday night and then came back home for a game against Notre Dame, which held on for a 71-70 victory at the Smith Center.

The Cavaliers have a similar turnaround this time after playing Saturday night against Duke. One unintended benefit, perhaps, of the Saturday-Monday turnaround: It can’t hurt come NCAA tournament time, can it?

After all, it’s the same set up: game day, followed by a chaotic but physically light prep day followed by another game.

“It’s the same thing, just every other day,” Brice Johnson, a UNC forward, said of how the Saturday-Monday scheduling might help a team in March. “On that day in between you just have to be able to take care of your body but at the same time, you’ve got to prepare for the next one.”

The UNC-Virginia game likely will go down this season as the most high-profile of the ACC’s Monday night games. Virginia has two more Monday night games left – against Pitt and at Syracuse – and Duke will play its second Monday night game next week at Florida State.

Awards at the Midpoint

We’ve reached the midpoint – pretty much, at least – of the conference season. So what better time to dole out some midseason All-ACC awards that stand a good chance to look silly a little more than a month from now when the regular season ends?

So without further delay:

Midseason All-ACC First Team

G: Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

G: Terry Rozier, Louisville

F: Justin Anderson, Virginia

F: Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse

F: Jahlil Okafor, Duke

Quick thoughts: That’s a good five. But wow. This is going to be a difficult team to put together at season’s end. At this point, Grant, Rozier, Anderson and Okafor all have to be givens, right? And Christmas is averaging 18 and 9, so you can’t leave him off right now, can you?

Midseason ACC Player of the Year

Jerian Grant

Yes, Okafor will be the higher draft pick and probably the better pro. Grant, though, has just about single-highhandedly made Notre Dame a top-15 team. This is basically the same team Notre Dame had last season, just with Grant back after he was ineligible for most of it.

Midseason ACC Rookie of the Year

Jahlil Okafor

Won’t be too much debating this one, unless Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes has several more 35-point games in him.

Midseason ACC Coach of the Year

Had Notre Dame escaped Pitt on Saturday, Mike Brey would make a lot of sense here. But it’s difficult to argue against Virginia’s Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers entered with some questions after the loss of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, but they look even better than they did a season ago. Bennett, it seems, is building a program that should be a year-in, year-out contender, both in the ACC and nationally.