A recent proposal could signal a full weekend of UNC-Duke basketball games.
Nothing could be finer than the 2020-21 Duke basketball squad defeating North Carolina twice in one weekend. On the flip side, nothing could be any more excruciating than the Blue Devils losing to the Tar Heels on back-to-back nights.
Yet considering Duke’s mere 51-49 edge across its past 100 meetings with UNC and all the instant classics between the two adversaries — particularly in the past 10 years, thanks to unbelievable late-game heroics from Tre Jones, Austin Rivers, etc. — maybe a split would be the wisest bet should this scenario come to pass.
There is reason to believe a weekend doubleheader of the unrivaled UNC-Duke basketball rivalry could indeed happen. Actually, the same goes for every conference series.
First, though, let’s make clear that the ACC basketball schedule-makers haven’t yet announced the manner in which league play will take place, other than the plan for the typical 20-game slate to be part of the up-to-27 outings the NCAA is allowing each D-I program in the upcoming regular season (to begin no earlier than Nov. 25; Duke is set to host Gardner-Webb on that date).
But as Kevin Stevens of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reported on Monday, the America East Conference has trumpeted a sensible strategy for its own schedule, using a format the Basketball Sport Scenario Group has proposed. And it sure seems like a format that might well catch on all across the country.
In fact, note that weekend-only contests are favorable to academic pursuits, travel expenses, and TV ratings. Now, with all that in mind — and factoring in that nobody knows if or when the world as a whole will return to a pre-2020 normal — it’s conceivable something similar to the following America East setup could become the new normal across the entire college hoops landscape:
- A schedule consisting of weekend series, in which a team hosts the same opponent for two games
- A double round-robin schedule of 18 conference games
- Commencement of conference play on Dec. 19-20, with subsequent open weekends to accommodate postponements
- Institutional discretion regarding non-conference play before Dec. 19-20
Adjusting the idea to fit the Duke basketball and ACC basketball schedules
Since there are 15 teams in the ACC, which has a predetermined schedule rotation to ensure each team faces each of the other 14 at least once per season, the weekend-series idea wouldn’t work out quite as smoothly as it does for the 10-member America East.
That said, the ACC could somewhat mirror the America East by scheduling each of the six two-game series for each school on its own weekend while also constructing some clever plan to minimize travel for all the contests between those who are set to meet only once.
Let’s look at the repeat and one-time Duke basketball opponents for this season as an example:
- Duke could have designated weekends for its two battles apiece against UNC, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Pitt, with three of the six series taking place inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and the other three on the road.
- As for the four single-game opponents set to travel to Durham this go-round — Boston College, Syracuse, Clemson, and Virginia — Duke could host two per weekend.
- As for the four single-game opponents to play host — Florida State, Miami, NC State, Virginia Tech — Duke could travel to two per weekend, with the ACC spacing out the games (Saturday afternoon then Sunday night) and pairing trips based on proximity (Florida State and Miami one weekend then NC State and Virginia Tech another weekend).
It’s not a perfect plan, but it’s a start. Then again, maybe two UNC-Duke basketball clashes on the same weekend would pose a greater health risk than the alternative. After all, a fan’s blueblood heart can only stand but so much utter jubilation or unprecedented devastation in a two-day span.
Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more on the ACC basketball schedule plus other Duke basketball news and views.