The ACC schedule is out. And given the league’s robust showing in the month of March — eight of the past 17 national champions dwell in this conference — it has the feel of an itinerary for a royal visit.
The non-conference games will begin to tell us if this league is up to its usual gold standard, which includes 47 NCAA tournament victories the past three years. Here’s the must-see list for November and December:
Nov. 10 – Georgia Tech vs. UCLA in Shanghai. The Yellow Jackets return their top three scorers from a surprising team that went to the NIT championship game.
Nov. 11 – Notre Dame at DePaul. The Blue Demons are hoping their new Wintrust Arena near Chicago’s McCormick Place can light a fire beneath a program that has gone colder than Lake Shore Drive in January. The Irish, expecting big things from Bonzie Colson, visit to help dedicate the place.
Nov. 14 – Duke vs. Michigan State in the Champions Classic in Chicago. The fifth day of the season might present No. 1 vs. No. 2. It’ll be the first chance to see if the Blue Devils in general, and freshman Marvin Bagley III in particular, are as mighty as advertised.
Nov. 20 – North Carolina at Stanford. How’s that national title defense looking early on? The Tar Heels haven’t played in Palo Alto in 34 years.
Nov. 27 – Wisconsin at Virginia. The ACC/Big Ten challenge begins with two renowned programs who have a lot of faces to replace.Nov. 28 – Louisville at Purdue. The Cardinals had their way with the Boilermakers last season, but Mackey Arena is like New York City; it can be hard on the tourists.
Nov. 29 – Oh, what a night as the ACC and Big Ten duel. Duke at Indiana. Mike Krzyzewski never loses in that state — three of his five national championships came up the road in Indianapolis. Also Miami at Minnesota, with two surging programs who have every intention to crash the party in their leagues, and may have the goods to do it. And Michigan at North Carolina. The last time they met was an April night in 1993, the Tar Heels clinging to a late lead in the national championship game, the Wolverines’ Chris Webber deciding his team needed a timeout and ... well, you know the rest.
Nov. 30 – Notre Dame at Michigan State. Curious thing. These two are always going at it in football, but this will be only their second meeting in basketball since 1979. What would be really fun is if the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is 7-6 at this point, and they play to decide the whole thing.
Dec. 3 – Seton Hall at Louisville. The Cardinals can’t sleep on this one. The Pirates are a genuine Big East contender.
Dec. 4 – Florida State at Florida. So what if it’s not football? The last four games have been decided by 5, 2, 2 and 1 points. The Seminoles won three of them.
Dec. 5 – Virginia at West Virginia. Last season’s No. 1 scoring defense against last season’s No. 1 turnover producer. Pass at your own risk.
Dec. 9 – Indiana at Louisville. Only 105 miles apart, they ought to play every year. To the winner goes Romeo Langford? He’s the uber-recruit guard who lives in Indiana, just across the river from Louisville. Both are on his final list. Then again, so is Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, North Carolina. And Vanderbilt.
Dec. 16 – Virginia Tech at Kentucky. The Hokies are just the sort to go into Rupp Arena and cause trouble if the Wildcats aren’t paying attention. Virginia Tech might be the only team in the nation to have lost its top two scorers but is returning all five starters.
Dec. 17 – North Carolina at Tennessee. The last time North Carolina visited Knoxville, was President Truman watching? It was 1949. The Heels might wish they got there more often. They’re 9-1 against the Volunteers all-time.
Dec. 29 – Louisville at Kentucky. The Cardinals ended a four-game losing streak against the Wildcats last season. While we’re at it, the Louisville baseball team knocked Kentucky out of the super regional.
And then the real fun begins. The conference schedule.
First Duke-North Carolina game, by the way, is Feb. 8.