Whether you are against ACC expansion or a fervent proponent of a wildly dominant Atlantic Coast Mega-Conference, there is one thing that we can agree on: Fourteen is a really awkward number. Mike Krzyzewski, supposedly one of the driving forces behind expansion, spent a good deal of Duke’s media day explaining the problem with fourteen team conferences. Citing a distaste for pods, he discussed a two-division based strategy for scheduling that, while reasonable, would yield a nineteen-game conference schedule and an uneven number of home and away games. While Krzyzewski kind of brushes it off, this is the kind of schedule imbalance that can end up deciding which team wins the ACC regular season title. In Krzyzewski’s mind, however, the problem with his plan just bolsters the case for a sixteen-team league.
Of course, the problems don’t stop with the regular season conference schedule: Fourteen teams would significantly complicate the ACC Tournament. Craig Littlepage, the athletic director at Virginia, has broken down a number of possibilities for the conference tournament, none that really seem particularly appealing. His concerns seem legitimate in that it’s hard to make a fair bracket with fourteen teams. Unless the conference were to resort to some form of multi-round byes, we’re looking at an extra day of competition or morning games. Considering the fact that Thursday is a pretty sparsely attended part of the conference tournament, adding Wednesday games might be stretching things out far too much. When the Big East had fourteen teams, the conference solved the problem by simply excluding the last two teams. This approach seems like it would be despised in the ACC, but it’s hard to see many other effective approaches. Obviously, there could be an elegant solution to the fourteen-team problem, but at the moment, no one can seem to put their finger on it.
The expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference seemed to reach a point of stability in the last few weeks, despite the uproar over Boston College’s role in denying Connecticut’s admittance. It seems, however, that true stability on the basketball side might be impossible with fourteen teams. Fourteen is an awkward, challenging number. With all of the accompanying challenges, complications, and troubles, it’s easy to see that sixteen is a more appealing configuration. Things may not be as stable and set as they seem.