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ACC struggles to find fair schedule

With the ACC expanding to 12 teams next season, a number of different basketball schedules have been discussed to replace the double round-robin format used when only nine teams were in the league. .

The ACC released Thursday the men’s basketball schedule for the next three years. An hour later, the league rescinded the schedule.

With the ACC expanding to 12 teams next season, a number of different basketball schedules have been discussed to replace the double round-robin format used before Miami and Virginia Tech entered the league this season.

Fred Barakat, the conference’s associate commissioner and scheduling guru, released a schedule last week that only slightly altered the status quo. Each team would have kept two “primary partners” and, of the other nine teams, it would have faced three only at home, three only on the road and three in both places.

ACC athletic directors, who approved the schedule, said it was the best possible solution until a reporter noticed an obvious flaw: Wake Forest’s schedule featured North Carolina twice in the 2006-2007 season but the Tar Heels were only slated to play the Demon Deacons once that same season.

“The symmetry of the schedule we had was beautiful. That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser said. “But that’s not the reality of college athletics now.

“When you have these mega-conferences, the purity of a double round-robin is not going to occur.”

Thursday’s released schedule was the latest solution proposed by the league since expansion talk began several years ago. When the ACC bumped up to 11 this season, teams began playing six teams twice and four teams once.

Another solution involves home-and-home series with each of five primary partners and six single-game opponents with rotation from season to season.

Coaches and athletic directors have also discussed creating two divisions within the conference, much like the ACC will use in 2005 for football. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said he opposes this option because it further eliminates the unity of the conference.

If the league wanted to return to a double round-robin, it would have to sacrifice games against non-conference opponents as it would push the ACC schedule from 16 to 22 games.

Unless the ACC returns to the double round-robin, it will be impossible to crown a true regular-season champion because of unbalanced schedules.

“The double round robin, great rivalries and true [regular-season] champion is the idealistic way of playing basketball,” Krzyzewski said.

This season the four teams Duke faces once are N.C. State, Clemson, Florida State and Virginia—the four bottom teams in the ACC standings.

North Carolina, which sits atop the conference with a handful of games remaining, has a significantly easier schedule. The four teams it faces once—Wake Forest, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech—are all within the top-seven teams in the ACC standings.

Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest are the top-three teams in the conference right now, but while the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons only played once, the Blue Devils face each team twice. Duke is a full game behind Wake Forest and trails UNC by one and a half games with a meeting in Chapel Hill March 6.

“The unbalanced schedule is a result of expansion. It is never ever going to be balanced. It will always be inequitable with different degrees of inequity, but that’s the schedule.” Prosser said. “They send you the schedule and you go play where and when you’re supposed to play.”

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