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GREENSBORO, N.C. – The release of the ACC men’s basketball conference schedule for the 2013-14 season on Thursday accentuates what has been obvious since Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse officially joined the league on July 1.
A conference already steeped in accomplishment, history and tradition is poised for even bigger things. Add defending NCAA champion Louisville to the mix in 2014-15, and the ACC will boast four of college basketball’s five active Naismith Hall of Fame coaches and programs that have produced a combined 14 NCAA titles.
“We will become an eight, nine, 10 (NCAA) bid league now,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We have the depth, and we have developing programs. We have a lot of good, young programs, and we have some of the old warhorses, too. Everyone is going to be watching our league. I think it is going to be riveting to watch ACC basketball.”
One might expect such optimism and hype from a conference coach, but independent observers agree with Brey’s analysis.
“No college basketball conference in the country can match the ACC following the latest phase of realignment that kicked into effect last month,” wrote Jason King of ESPN.com. “Adding Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, Jamie Dixon and Mike Brey to a coaching stable that includes Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski makes the tradition-rich ACC even more intimidating.”
ACC basketball fans will have ample opportunity to check out the new-look conference during the upcoming season, as all 135 regular-season conference games and each of the 14 ACC Tournament games are scheduled to be televised.
The schedule, as usual, includes two nationally televised Duke-North Carolina matchups (Feb. 12 and March 8), but also showcases the ACC’s three newest members.
Notre Dame’s Brey will face his former boss (Krzyzewski) when the Irish make their ACC debut against Duke at home on Jan. 4.
“I’m thrilled to be back in this league,” Brey said. “I never thought that it would come full circle and that I would be back coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”
The Irish also play a home-and-home set vs. North Carolina. Syracuse will face Duke at both the Carrier Dome and Cameron Indoor Stadium. Pitt drew a slot opposite Duke on ESPN’s “Big Monday” package and will play host to the Blue Devils on Jan. 27.
Syracuse’s home game against Duke on Feb. 1 (in addition to the March 8 UNC-Duke matchup) will be featured as part of the ESPN “College GameDay” schedule.
“The ACC's new members will make a grand entrance into the league thanks to a conference schedule that's loaded with marquee games,” ESPN.com’s King said. “Syracuse, in particular, has a slate that should be appealing to fans.”
The ACC conference schedule includes the “Big Monday” package announced earlier this month by ESPN. That eight-game slate, which includes three appearances each by North Carolina and Virginia, two apiece by Duke, Maryland, Notre Dame and Syracuse, and one each by Florida State and Pitt, runs January 13 through March 3.
The complete ACC schedule, which will include non-conference games, will be released at a future date and will be highlighted by the 15th annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge, a 12-game series that was announced last week and features two of the nation’s premier conferences in prime time on Dec. 3 and 4.
“It's going to be exciting watching the competition, both within the league and on the national stage., “ ACC commissioner John Swofford said earlier this summer. “I think it's fair to say that this is the strongest collection of basketball programs that has ever been assembled in one conference.”
Leonard Hamilton, entering his 12th year in the ACC as head coach at Florida State, concurred.
“I’ve always been a part of a great conference, and it’s gotten greater,” Hamilton said. “It could be the greatest of all time – there’s no doubt about that. You take a look at all the rich tradition that the ACC has enjoyed over the years, and you think about the tradition now that is being added to it, you can’t do anything but be excited.”