Happy Thursday, Hoo fans! Hope everyone in Virginia and the Carolinas are staying safe and dry.
The 2019 ACC Basketball schedule dropped today, and we wanted to give you our initial thoughts. You can see the schedule in its entirety here: LINK
There are a few ways I like to look at the schedule for quality.
Strength of Schedule
This is a strong year for the conference, in my opinion. You've got Top 10-worthy programs in UVA, Duke, and UNC. You've got Top 25-worthy programs in VT, Syracuse, Florida State, and Clemson. You've got dangerous mid-tier programs with excellent talent and coaching that are going to win some big upset games this year in Miami, Notre Dame, BC, Louisville and NC State. The RPI (or whatever the hell the NCAA is using this year) isn't going to be an issue for Virginia.
But even more than that, our home/away double-ups are solid. Duke, VT, Louisville, Notre Dame. Two ranked teams, two dangerous power programs on the rebound. January, February, and the first half of March are going to be a Gauntlet, with the "breathers" against Wake (1/22 at home), GT (2/27 at home), and Pitt (3/2 at home), plus our mid-week bye (week of 2/4) as rare, welcome respites.
Home games are recruiting opportunities. But to be able to get kids on Grounds who have a lot of distance to cover (say, recruiting a kid from NY/NJ or Georgia) requires a weekend game so they have time to make the drive. Additionally, you want to bring them in for high-energy crowds vs marquee opponents, not a sleepy romp over Pitt. So weekend games, marquee opponents, oh, and after the students are back, preferably (students return weekend of 1/12). What do we have?
Sat, 1/12, vs Clemson
Sat, 2/2, vs Miami
Sat, 2/9, vs Duke
Sat, 2/16 vs ND
Sat, 3/9, vs Louisville
The ACC did us a solid this year. The only thing missing is a weekend date vs VT (both our in-state rivalry games are mid-week this season). Clemson, Notre Dame, Miami, and Louisville are all solid programs with realistic NCAAT goals, maybe even Top 25, that should get a good crowd fired up and recruits interested in attending. Duke... shit, reserve a spot for the ESPN Game Day RV now. Tony will have no shortage of weekends to host his priority 2020 and 2021 targets (as well as his 2019 commits) for games, allowing him to work around their high school team schedules.
This is a major piece, getting prime ESPN placement throughout the year, especially in February and March once the CFB and NFL playoffs have died down and casual fans are turning their attention to college hoops.
We've got 11 of our 18 games on a major network (ESPN, ESPN2, and one on CBS), including three ESPN Big Monday appearances (@UNC, @VT, and @Syracuse). UVA fans, national college basketball fans, and recruits will be able to watch us all winter and spring all over the country. That's a really solid percentage and UVA fans should be pleased that the ACC and ESPN see us as such a bankable product.
Did I say it's a gauntlet? Oh, should I say it a few more times for effect? The key becomes not wearing down before the end of the year. Our worst road stretch is five away games out of seven, starting at BC on 1/9 and ending at NC State 1/29. After that, we're mostly home, and Feb/Mar sees our "cupcake" games vs GT and Pitt plus our mini-bye before Duke. There's never going to be a true rest period before entering the postseason, but playing 3 of our last 4 at home, including arguably the easiest two teams in the ACC, is the next best thing.