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Quick Tidbit: ACC Basketball Scheduling Formula

A quick refresher for fans who are thinking “why are we only playing this team once this year?”

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Championship-Virginia vs North Carolina Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Each year, Miami and all 14 other Atlantic Coast Confrence basketball teams play an 18-game Confrence schedule, usually starting in late December or early January, and ending in early March right before the ACC Tournament. That appears to be the only thing in common between in common between a team’s conference slate each year.

Whether you look at the schedule on an early October evening in anticipation of hoops season on the horizon, or you are sitting at lunch with a friend discussing the upcoming schedule, the same thing always comes up: “Why are we only playing this team once this year? Didn’t we play twice last season?”

The ACC indeed has an unbalanced schedule, leading to annual confusion among fans regarding the array of teams playing the Canes each year.

This serves as a guide, refreshing fans at all levels on who exactly plays Miami (or any other ACC team) each year.

First off, each ACC team is assigned two ‘rivals’ who play twice a year, every year, no matter what. For Miami, this two teams are Florida State and Virginia Tech. Fans can expect to see these teams in Coral Gables every season. The Hurricanes will also travel to both Tallahassee and Blacksburg each year without exception.

This leaves 12 other conference teams, who will all appear on the schedule at least once. In addition, two of those 12 teams will get a second game on the schedule, with each of the twelve teams getting a rematch once every six years, on a rotating basis.

Let’s take a look at UM’s 2019 conference schedule.

We see the usual pair of games with FSU and VT, along with two games against Wake Forest and North Carolina (With one in Coral Gables and another in Chapel-Hill/Winston Salem). While the Canes would normally play these two teams just once per year, it is both of these team’s turn to receive a rematch with Miami. The remaining 10 ACC teams play Miami just once.

This graphic shows the ACC schedule rotation during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season.
CBS Sports

The picture above shows the ACC schedule for each team in 2015 and 2016’s conference season. We see not only Miami’s annual rivalries but also other well-known rivalries, such as Duke-North Carolina, Clemson-FSU, Pitt-Syracuse and Virginia Tech-Virginia. Like the series between FSU and Miami, the above rivalries are a twice-a-year affair.

It also shows that Miami played Louisville and Boston College for twice in 2015, teams who normally play UM just once each year. The Canes will be scheduled to play both of these teams twice again in 2021, six years after 2015. In 2016, when Miami played Virginia and Notre Dame twice, they played these teams twice in a season for the last time until 2022.

2017 saw Miami play Duke and NC State twice. Last year, the two teams were Pitt and Boston College.

This formula does not take into account any potential postseason matchups, allowing a pair of teams to potentially play three or more times during the course of a season.

While this format may be unfair in a league which rewards teams with the best overall conference records regardless of strength of schedule, it is the way the ACC fills all 18 games, giving each team a chance at reaching their goal of making it to the big dance.