More Thoughts On An 18-game ACC Schedule

Several years ago when I was talking to Jeff about becoming an author here, he said one of the big advantages of writing on a blog over a message board is that you never have to type anything more than once. If the same subject comes up again, you just link what you did before.

Well time has finally proven Jeff correct. The ACC office announced today that men’s and women’s basketball would be going to an 18-game conference schedule regardless of how many team are actually in the league. If we assume that Pitt and ‘Cuse won’t make it next year, here’s a look at a number of possibilities for splitting 18 games up in a 12-team league that was first published here in May 2008.

If we do get a year of 18 games in a 12 team conference, then the first example with the same two primary partners will obviously be chosen. This schedule would be the best we’ve seen since expanding beyond nine teams and is SUBSTANTIALLY better than what we’ll see in the near future.


It seems pretty clear that the ACC will go to an 18 game basketball schedule if (and only if) the networks agree to pay handsomely in the next TV contract. Increasing the regular season will obviously push more conference games into December and it seems to me that this change would be in the networks’ best interest.

So for today’s exercise, let’s assume that the TV networks pay enough money to over ride the coaches’ objections and the ACC goes to an 18 game schedule. When this happens, a generic schedule would break down like this:

– Play 7 teams home/home (= 14 games)
– Play 2 teams home only (= 2 games)
– Play 2 teams away only (= 2 games)
This gives a grand total of 18 conference games.

So now all that’s left is the dirty details of how to arrange these games into a coherent schedule. I thought that I would list several ways that the ACC schedule could be arranged and attach a guess at the likelihood of that option being selected by the ACC.


For those that dislike change in general, the obvious move would be to keep the current two “primary partners” and rotate everyone else. For State, this option would be:

UNC/WF – four games every year and a rotation similar to this:


This would not be a terrible schedule. When compared to a complete round-robin, State would miss four games over a nine-year period against the nine rotating teams. Also note that the rotation was designed such that you never miss more than one game with any team over any two-year period. With the current 16 game schedule, you lose two games every three years.

The advantages to this system are:
– Keep the current primary partners for each school.
– Minimize the change that has to be sold to the various personalities involved (ie coaches and AD’s).
– No glaring disadvantages when compared to any other option.

I give this option >75% chance of being adopted by the ACC.


The most logical option would be to put all 11 teams on a rotating schedule to completely balance the schedule over time. For State, the schedule would look something like this:


This schedule would mean that you would only miss four games over an 11-year stretch against each team in the conference (and no more than one game over any two years). If I were the ACC commissioner, this is the option that I would push for….which probably means that its chances of adoption are not very good.

One huge stumbling block to getting this accepted by the networks would be losing four Duke-UNC games over the 11-year rotation. The hype spewed forth twice each year suggests that this option would be opposed by the networks. Its overall fairness is a big plus, but I would give this option less than 25% chance of being adopted.


This is one that I would never have thought of, but I have seen it mentioned on various message board threads. This option is normally combined with the assumption that Duke would become State’s third primary partner. However, since I have gotten good seats in Blacksburg when State played there (and because I’m the one writing this), the following schedule assumes that State’s three primary partners are UNC, WF, and VT:


This option has exactly 0% chance of being used. Can you imagine the whining and gnashing of teeth over setting up the third primary partner for each school? The only reason that I even included it was so that it could serve as an intro into an even more bizarre scenario:


A subset of the three primary partner scenario would be to rearrange the primary partners based on geography. This scenario goes like this:

1) Divide the conference into three geographical regions:

– North: BC, UVA, VT, UMD
– Central: UNC, NCSU, WF, Duke
– South: Clemson, GT, FSU, UM

2) Play two games every year against the teams in your region. In many instances, this would mean discarding at least one of the primary partners defined after ACC expansion.

3) Play two games against one of the other regions

4) Play a total of four games against the third region (two @ home and two away).

5) Alternate the games against the other two regions every year.

In table format, the three-region schedule would look like this for State:


This option would be one of those rare moments in ACC history…something that you could get 100% agreement on. In other words, no school would favor this approach. This would get voted down quicker than the thought of using the football divisions (and cross-divisional rival) for setting the basketball schedule.


Increasing the number of conference games would obviously tighten up the variability in conference SOS. Every once in a while, someone will get a nearly “perfect” schedule that is either harder or easier than “normal”…but more games should still work to minimize the difference between hardest and easiest schedules. When we get to this point, we’ll let our annual analysis document the variation and we can draw comparisons to the 16 game schedules.


We’ve discussed this effect already, but I’m not convinced that a lower-ranking conference RPI will directly impact any of the ACC bubble teams. It seems to me that we’ve come up with a pretty good system for evaluating BCS bubble teams using:
– Wins against RPI Top-50 (and Top-25)
– Conference Wins
– Conference Tournament Results

The bottom line is that losses against good teams don’t hurt a team’s chances of getting into the NCAAT. We can go back over State’s records from 2002, 2003, and 2005 to show that “good” losses (and even bad losses) don’t matter as long as you have some good wins along the way. (These three years also demonstrate how valuable wins in the conference tournament are.)

Note that I’m not going to disagree with the professors from the Dance Card. I’m just betting that Conference RPI works against mid-majors more than it helps the BCS schools.


I don’t see any drawbacks in expanding the ACC schedule to 18 games. Using either of the first two options would dramatically reduce the number of games “missed” versus a complete round-robin schedule. Since we will never see a round-robin schedule again, we have to hope for the next best thing. Plus…several more conference games from each team in December will certainly be better than nearly anything else shown on TV.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

General NCS Basketball

19 Responses to More Thoughts On An 18-game ACC Schedule

  1. Trout 05/10/2008 at 7:26 AM #

    Excellent, excellent analysis – well done VaWolf.

    I agree with you, the ACC will go with the “status quo” option.

    I too am in favor of the ACC doing this (18 conference games). Like you said, we will never have a round-robin conference schedule again, so anything that gets us closer to that is a good thing. At the very least, going to 18 conference games tips the once/twice ratio from 5/6 to 7/4.

  2. haze 05/10/2008 at 8:16 AM #

    Very nice work.

    Put simply, more conference games means more meaningful games on the schedule and fewer of the incessant tune-up cupcakes. This means that the fans are into it more and there’s more opportunity to get home&homes with the best teams in the conference.

    The only downside I see is fewer paydays for the low-majors that come to play in November and December.

  3. StateFans 05/11/2008 at 7:54 AM #

    Absolutely FANTASTIC work. This needs to be promoted throughout other ACC sites on the web so that the whole conference will see it. Fantastic work.

  4. Elrod 05/11/2008 at 9:16 AM #

    I like the geography model. It would create the best fan interest both on the court and in recruiting. In the long run, it should help spread out the league’s talent bas.

  5. burnbarn 05/11/2008 at 3:48 PM #

    Nice report… no way they could mirror the football divisions?

    VaWolf82: Sure they could, but the BB coaches have already spoken out against using the FB divisions in BB. So who (in a position that matters) is going to feel strongly enough to argue for it? What advantage would this have over any other possibility?

  6. waxhaw 05/11/2008 at 6:36 PM #

    I think there is a MAJOR disadvantage to expanding the ACC regular season to 18 games. Primarily, our ability to get more teams into the NCAA will diminish.

    The NCAA looks at OOC SOS and OOC quality wins disproportionately to our in conference wins. If we add two more ACC games, we will more than likely lose 2 decent OOC games. Obviously replacing 2 cupcakes with 2 ACC games would be great. However, there is a 0% chance that we will lose the cupcakes that agree to come to the RBC in the early season. We need those games for ticket revenue.

    IMO, most of our teams will swap 2 ACC games for 2 decent OOC games and we will have even less OOC quality wins to hang our hats on. This is not going to help our bubble teams at all.

  7. redfred2 05/11/2008 at 9:33 PM #

    I really couldn’t care less how many ACC teams “get in” until I see the ACC teams that are already getting in start taking advantage of it, and winning more NCAA tournament games.

    It’s not that the talent and coaching is not there like it once was, but season after season of pitiful and inconsistent ACC officiating has as much to do with it as anything else.

  8. VaWolf82 05/11/2008 at 10:14 PM #

    The NCAA looks at OOC SOS and OOC quality wins disproportionately to our in conference wins


    Here is a counter-example…..In 2002, State won only one game against an NCAAT opponent (UMD in the ACCT). It doesn’t look to me that key OOC wins are more important than conference ones. If you want to discuss home vs road or neutral; then that’s a different subject.

    What is important is beating good teams. It doesn’t matter if they are in your conference or not.

  9. cowdog 05/20/2008 at 7:38 PM #

    Man, the spread sheet is fabulous good work.

    Just want to know…from you guys what is wrong with what I’ve blindly felt is the obvious.

    If ya play 18 Conf. games, what is wrong with playing 9 opponents?

    Home and Home.

    Not expounding, help me find the flaw.

  10. hoop 12/15/2011 at 10:38 PM #

    Re: Cowdog,

    In the case of 9 round robins, then it’s not much of a conference. Lots of teams don’t play each other for many years on end. Lots of fighting about who plays who and when. Assuming some teams get rotated in and out, teams don’t have a chance to avenge losses, good or bad, and fan interest wanes, if not becoming outright frustrated.

  11. PackerInRussia 12/15/2011 at 11:21 PM #

    Any option that means UNC/Duke don’t play each year will never fly even if it’s better for the conference overall (option 2 above). ESPN would picket outside of ACC headquarters with Dick Vitale leading long, incoherent chants mixed in with occasional tirades if they even thought about dropping a game over a several year stretch. If it passed, they would rend their garments and sprinkle dust and ashed on their head and go into mourning and play old UNC/Duke replays throughout the season to compensate. It would be called the greatest tragedy in the history of basketball.

  12. 61Packer 12/15/2011 at 11:26 PM #

    I’m a long-time fan who hates expansion and especially the divisions it has created in football. It’s hurting the league financially when they cut back rivalries like State-Duke and UNC-WF. We should play Duke every year in football, not BC, and we should also have Duke restored twice a season to our basketball schedule.

    For basketball, we should have UNC, WF, Duke, Maryland and UVA twice a season, EVERY SEASON. That’s 10 games. The remaining 8 games would be one game each against the rest of the league.

    To hell with what the ACC coaches want regarding the number of league games. We fans buy the tickets that support them, and we want more ACC games, not more SOCON, MAC, Sun Belt, Big South, C-USA or MEAC games.

    Rotation needs to be based on rivalries, not political correctness.

  13. Shadow722 12/16/2011 at 2:03 AM #


    If your contention is there is a MAJOR disadvantage to expanding the ACC regular season to 18 games. Primarily, our ability to get more teams into the NCAA will diminish due to fewer OOC quality games/schedule/wins.

    Then please explain away the Big East getting 11 teams to the NCAA’s last year with an 18 game conference schedule.

    It appears that playing quality opponents is always more important than where they are from, conference or non-conference, and where you play them hardly matters.

    Another example is Syracuse, they have gone over 1,000 days without playing a Non-Conference away game. Ours will be their first, in nearly three years. It certainly has not hurt their NCCA bid invitation frequency.

  14. VaWolf82 12/16/2011 at 7:30 AM #

    General note

    The first nine comments or so were made in May 2008. If you are directing a comment or question to those posters, they may never see them.

    There are some substantial differences between the rotations noted above for a 12-team conference and those that we will see when 18 games are spread against 13 opponents. Hopefully, I can outline some of those impacts this weekend.

  15. BloggerEsquire 12/16/2011 at 7:46 AM #

    I realize the answer is probably not, but I wonder if expanding the conference schedule into December would open up the possibility of an early-season ACC game in Reynolds- particularly against a distant opponent such as BC or Miami with lower fan interest.

  16. VaWolf82 12/16/2011 at 9:25 AM #

    I wonder if expanding the conference schedule into December would open up the possibility of an early-season ACC game in Reynolds


  17. wolfbuff 12/16/2011 at 9:50 AM #

    This is all good stuff, but eventually Syracuse and Pitt will be in the conference, so projecting this out with the current 12 team membership is kind of pointless isn’t it? What would it look like with 14 teams? The 3 geography based model is out. Maybe a north/south divisional split. Would the 3-rival model make more sense with 14?

    You obviously missed where I said that:
    – The entry was written and published in 2008
    – I hope to get the comments up this weekend on the 14 team conference

  18. vtpackfan 12/16/2011 at 3:09 PM #

    The conference and its schedule have just sucked balls since VT, BC, and the U arrove. Waiting to see if the Cuse, Pitt and the reemergence of tobacco road basketball with a competing State BBall program help breath life into things. Right now the Colonial is more interesting.

  19. LRM 12/16/2011 at 7:40 PM #

    Interesting. I look forward to seeing the updates on the 14-team, 18-game schedule.

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