The advantages and disadvantages of the ACC's first post-expansion men's basketball schedule can be debated, but what's certain is that Comcast Center season ticket holders won't get to see what might be the country's preseason No. 1 team this season and Virginia fans will have to hit the road if they want to see Duke.
For the first time, the schedule, released yesterday by the conference, does not incorporate a double round robin format in which each school plays every other twice. All 11 teams will play 16 conference games each, but they'll play four teams only once.
Competitively, Maryland could benefit from this year's schedule because it will play Georgia Tech and Wake Forest only once each. Georgia Tech reached the national championship game last season, and Wake Forest, which features preseason Wooden Award candidates Justin Gray and Chris Paul, could be the nation's preseason top-ranked team.
"It hasn't set in yet that we will not play in places like the Comcast Center or Smith Center [North Carolina] this season," Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser said in a statement. "That's the collateral damage of expansion. While we'll miss playing longtime rivals, you hope that it's counter-balanced with new rivalries against Virginia Tech and Miami."
The Terrapins retain their annual home-and-home rivalry with Duke in a series that has consistently yielded high television ratings. Coaches wanted to preserve the 16-game format, and not expand to 18 conference games, to ensure the same amount of national nonconference exposure and competition.
The Maryland men's basketball team is on a tour of Italy, and Coach Gary Williams could not be reached to comment.
The additions of Miami and Virginia Tech this season, and Boston College in 2005, could shake up tradition, but Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton said: "Some people don't like that other people have a chance to catch up. Change can be positive. We made the change. Why complain?"
Florida State will not play Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, which normally would be considered a positive, except, as Hamilton noted, the Seminoles played Duke tough last season in Durham, N.C., losing by seven.
"All the teams are good," Hamilton said. "If you're not prepared, you could get your head handed to you against anyone."
In Charlottesville, fans had mixed reactions after learning that Duke would not be visiting Alumni Hall this season.
"I think it matters that Duke's not playing here," countered Roy Paschall Jr., a Charlottesville native who goes to just about every Virginia basketball and football home game. "They're the number one team that comes to Charlottesville -- them and North Carolina. . . . I can't see a good side to it."
Virginia fan Scott Houchens said he's glad the Cavaliers won't have to face Duke and Georgia Tech twice.
"Most of the U-Va. fans I know would rather see them beat UNC than Duke, anyway," said Houchens, a Virginia Commonwealth student who grew up in Charlottesville.
The ACC is expected to be the most competitive conference this season, with as many as five teams -- Wake Forest, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Duke and Maryland -- ranked near the top 15. Twenty of the league's top 25 scorers from last season will return this season. ACC teams will make 132 national television appearances.
Hamilton pointed to other conferences, such as the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference, as evidence of the positive effects expansion can have for competition and recruiting.
"I'm sure they had people complaining," Hamilton said. "Don't you think their conferences have gotten better?"
The two other ACC teams that Maryland will face only once are Miami and Florida State. The league's trademark rivalry, North Carolina-Duke, still will occur twice during the regular season.
Maryland's nonconference schedule is highlighted by a game against Memphis in Springfield, Mass., and a road date at Wisconsin. Other top nonconference games include Michigan State at Duke; Oklahoma vs. Duke (in New York); Kentucky at North Carolina; Georgia Tech vs. Gonzaga (in Las Vegas); Georgia Tech at Kansas; Wake Forest at Illinois and Texas at Wake Forest.