U.Va., Virginia Tech men's hoops teams face tough challenges in and out of ACC

Norm Wood
Contact Reporternwood@dailypress.com
#UVA plays road games against Villanova and California, while #Hokies will head to Michigan

BLACKSBURG — Virginia and Virginia Tech open their Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball slates with marquee games around the holidays, but students at both schools will have to work around break schedules to attend a Saturday home game.

U.Va., which tips off its season Nov. 11 on the road against UNC Greensboro, will play its first ACC game Dec. 28 at Louisville in a matchup that surely will feature teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25.

Tech also starts its season Nov. 11, hosting Maine, and will jump right into the fray in ACC competition Dec. 31 with its first conference game at home against Duke.

In addition to the daunting ACC openers, U.Va. and Tech have tough trips, neutral-court games and home contests outside the conference on their respective schedules.

U.Va. coach Tony Bennett takes his team to play in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla., on Nov. 25 against Iowa and Nov. 26 against either Memphis or Providence.

U.Va. will host Ohio State on Nov. 30 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and West Virginia on Dec. 3 before traveling Dec. 21 to play at California and Jan. 29 to play at reigning national champion Villanova.

Tech heads to Fullerton, Calif., to play in the Wooden Legacy on Nov. 24 against New Mexico, Nov. 25 against Texas A&M or Cal State-Northridge and Nov. 27 in a final-round game of the eight-team event. On Nov. 30, Tech hits the road to play at Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge before it heads home for a Dec. 11 game against Mississippi.

"Our schedule this season will challenge our team," Tech coach Buzz Williams said in a news release from the school's athletic department. "The trip to the West Coast for the Wooden Legacy will test us with its tremendous field, and then we travel directly to play an outstanding Michigan team in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

"This season, we also begin a home-and-home series with Mississippi. There are no days off in the ACC. This league keeps getting stronger and stronger each season, and in order to compete, we must get better every day."

Last season, U.Va. went 29-8, advancing to the NCAA tournament Midwest Region final before losing 68-62 to Syracuse after letting a 15-point lead slip away in the last 10 minutes. Tech finished 20-15, capping its season with an 80-77 loss to Brigham Young in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Neither Tech nor U.Va. has a schedule this season that's student-friendly in terms of opportunities to catch each team on a Saturday when classes are in session. Tech plays no games at home on Saturdays when students aren't on break, and U.Va. has just two Saturday home games on its slate (the aforementioned West Virginia game and Jan. 21 against Georgia Tech) when class is in full swing.

By contrast, Duke plays five Saturday home games when students are on campus, including three straight Saturdays in February against Pittsburgh (Feb. 4), Clemson (Feb. 11) and Wake Forest (Feb. 18). North Carolina has four Saturday home games when classes are in session, including Feb. 4 against Notre Dame, Feb. 18 against U.Va. and March 4 against Duke.

U.Va., which again is expected to be one of the top 10 teams in the nation to start the season, has a potentially brutal February on tap with ACC games against Tech (Feb. 1), at Syracuse (Feb. 4), against Louisville (Feb. 6), at Tech (Feb. 12), against Duke (Feb. 15), at UNC (Feb. 18), against Miami (Feb. 20), at N.C State (Feb. 25) and against UNC (Feb. 27).

Tech, which may be projected by media to be among the top five or six programs in the conference this season, will have a stretch in late January and February when it plays six of eight ACC games on the road. It plays at Clemson (Jan. 22), at UNC (Jan. 26), against Boston College (Jan. 29), at U.Va. (Feb. 1), at Miami (Feb. 8), against U.Va. (Feb. 12), at Pittsburgh (Feb. 14) and at Louisville (Feb. 18).

Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642.

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