Today we will look at some of the most interesting ACC non-conference games of 2013-14. For this feature we will not include games in early season tournaments because we earlier previewed those events in three parts - Part I, Part II, and Part III. Also, we will not look at any of the specific match-ups in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in this feature because we’ll focus on that annual event at a later date. That still leaves a good inventory of ACC-related non-conference games to choose from, and as you will see, most of these games will be played in New York City, which is not entirely by accident. Counting tournament appearances, eight different ACC teams are scheduled to play a total of 16 games in the Big Apple — it’s obvious that the ACC is serious about taking advantage of the most recent expansion into the Northeast. A strong presence in New York is clearly part of the conference plan. By comparison, only four ACC teams played a total of five games in the New York area last season, counting a Duke-Temple game played in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In chronological order, here are the seven non-conference games that will be crucial to win for the ACC to meet its goal as the top conference in the nation this season.
Friday November 8 – Maryland vs. Connecticut (Barclays Center – Brooklyn) – 6:30 PM ESPN2
Without injured point guard Seth Allen, the Terrapins will be underdogs against the Huskies on opening night. The explosive Connecticut backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright will be hard covers for the bigger but slower Maryland guards. Dez Wells and Nick Faust must limit their turnovers, a problem for both last season, but the Terps hope to counter with the punishing post duo of Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare. A wild card for Maryland may be 6’8″ sophomore Jake Layman, who reportedly has been a standout in preseason scrimmages.
Tuesday November 12 – Duke vs. Kansas (Champions Classic – Chicago) – 9:30 PM ESPN
The college basketball world will be focused on the Champions Classic doubleheader on this night. #1 Kentucky squares off with #2 Michigan State in the opener, but most of the buzz seems to be about the nightcap. There are plenty of storylines for this one including the match-up of the top two freshmen in the country, Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker for Duke. Also, the game is in Chicago, Coach K’s hometown, and the Midwestern backyard of Bill Self. This year’s #1 high school senior Jahlil Okafor lives in Chicago and reportedly will decide soon between Duke and Kansas. Finally, it should be a great game to watch with plenty of top athletes on the floor. Kansas holds a decided edge in the paint while Duke has a more proven backcourt. The game may come down to which team’s newcomers best handle playing on the big stage for the first time.