August 26, 2010
Our week-long ACC preview continues with a look at the conference's 15 most intriguing matchups next season.
1. Michigan State at Duke, Dec. 1
Comment: The Big Ten-ACC challenge delivers one of the 2010-11 season's marquee regular season games. Defending national champion Duke has been anointed the consensus favorite to repeat, but Michigan State returns everyone but Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen from a Final Four team.
2. Duke at North Carolina, March 5
What better way to usher in March Madness than with the first-ever regular season showdown between Duke and North Carolina to air in primetime on network TV? The Devils swept a pair of meetings last season including a 64-54 win at the Dean Dome, so this will likely be the Tar Heels' best chance for revenge.
3. Kentucky at North Carolina, Dec. 4
John Wall emerged as one of college basketball's marquee names during this game a year ago when he fought through a bout with dehydration to hit the free throws that defeated the Tar Heels. Will Harrison Barnes, Brandon Knight or one of the handful of other promising freshmen in next year's game have a similar headline-grabbing performance?
4. Duke vs. Butler (East Rutherford, N.J.), Dec. 4
Comment: Gordon Hayward turning pro takes some of the luster off this national title game rematch, but the return of Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and Ronald Nored ensure that Butler will still have a team capable of earning revenge against the Blue Devils.
5. Duke at Virginia Tech, Feb. 26
It will be raucous and hostile in Blacksburg when Duke visits for its only meeting of the season with perhaps its top ACC challenger. If the Hokies have any chance of winning the conference, this is likely a must-win.
6. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 28
Florida has the talent and experience to push Kentucky in the SEC. Florida State has aspirations of a top-three ACC finish. This game may not have the anticipation of the annual football showdown between these two in-state rivals, but it won't be an afterthought this year either.
7. Purdue at Virginia Tech, Dec. 1
Marquee games like this ACC-Big Ten Challenge showdown ensure that strength of schedule will not keep Virginia Tech out of the NCAA tournament again this year. The Hokies also scheduled Kansas State and Mississippi State this season and they will headline a solid field at the 76 Classic in Anaheim.
8. North Carolina at NC State, TBD
An overflow crowd of more than 4,000 fans watched a summer-league matchup last month featuring the top freshmen from both North Carolina and NC State. Think how much bigger the buzz will be when the game actually counts in the conference standings.
9. Duke at Maryland, TBD
Comment: It likely won't be a battle for first place in the ACC like last year's meeting in College Park, but this is still one of the nation's premier rivalry games. Greivis Vasquez hit a game-winner to beat Duke last season, helping Maryland earn a share of the conference title.
10. NC State at Syracuse, Dec. 4
Comment: Diehard Wolfpack fans will have seen their freshmen play a handful of games already, but this will be much of the rest of the nation's first glimpse at C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown. Even a competitive performance at Syracuse would bode well for ACC play.
11. Wake Forest vs. Preseason NIT, Nov.15-26
Comment: We'll find out in a hurry whether Wake Forest's talented freshman class can make enough of an immediate impact to offset the departure of the core of last year's NCAA tournament team. The Demon Deacons must get through a pod that includes Hampton, Winthrop and Virginia Commonwealth to advance to the semis in New York.
12. Duke vs. Kansas State/Gonzaga, Nov. 23
Comment: If Duke defeats Marquette in the CBE Classic semifinals the previous night, the title game will be the first of several mouthwatering non-league tests for the Blue Devils. Kansas State should carry a top-five ranking into this game, while Gonzaga again figures to be one of the West Coast's top teams.
13. Maryland vs. Pittsburgh (New York City), Nov. 18
Comment: A tough early test against Big East contender Pittsburgh should give us a better idea how the post-Greivis Vasquez era at Maryland will turn out. The winner gets either Illinois or Texas the next night at Madison Square Garden in the title game of the 2K Sports Classic.
14. Miami at Memphis, Nov. 16
Comment: How do we determine whether Miami's ACC tournament surge last season was an aberration or a harbinger of things to come? Well, a season-opening midnight matchup with nationally ranked Memphis should provide some clues.
15. Virginia Tech at North Carolina, TBD
Comment: Only facing both Duke and North Carolina once apiece in the regular season is a huge advantage for Virginia Tech. Their lone meeting with the Tar Heels could go a long way in determining who emerges as the top challenger to Duke in the ACC this season.