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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Just one more time...

There's been quite a bit written about the ACC's new, unbalanced schedule. But right before conference play is about to begin in earnest, the Durham Herald-Sun's Al Featherston provides a detailed analysis.

Featherston points out that ACC teams are strong at home- 47-25 in league games last year, with Clemson the only team that had a losing record at home.

Teams such as Virginia and Florida St. are tough at home, but "pushovers on the road." I'd add Clemson to this list, despite their losing record at home, because Littlejohn Coliseum historically has been a tough place to play. So any team who has one or more of these opponents only at home has an unfair advantage over teams that have to play them on the road. ACC newcomers Miami and Virginia Tech are not expected to fare well on the road, either.

So a home game against Clemson, Miami or Virginia Tech "has to be the closest thing to a sure win out there. Duke and Georgia Tech have three such games, Maryland and UNC two each, while N.C. State and Wake Forest get just one such 'gimme.'"

Still, Wake plays just three games on the road against its top contenders-Duke, N.C.State and Georgia Tech, something that "shapes up as the biggest advantage of all."

With that in mind, Featherston gives the schedule advantage to Wake:

"The Deacs have the easiest path to the regular-season title-but only if the Deacons can protect their home court."

On the other hand,

"Duke appears to have the toughest overall path to finish No. 1, based on being the only team to play nine games against the contenders and five on the road. But while the Blue Devils do have more tough games scheduled than the other contenders, Duke's schedule is softer at the bottom end."