The ACC conference basketball season kicks off in earnest on Saturday, with five intraconference games; Maryland and N.C. State round out the schedule on Sunday. It's the first time in over a decade that play hasn't started in drips and drabs on Sunday nights in December, a result of the now-concluded Fox Sports television contract. I'm assuming there will be a decent media push, kicking off the season in style. Alas, it may be a one-time deal, as next season the conference slate expands to eighteen games in advance of Syracuse and Pittsburgh joining the conference, and we may have to return to early December ACC basketball.
We shouldn't though. The ACC needs to intrude on bowl season instead.
The contrast between the horrible early bowls immediately after Christmas and UNC's two basketball games against pretty inferior competition was striking. I couldn't really be bothered to feign interest in any of the ACC bowls, but was still willing to make an evening out of some pretty bad basketball, and not just Carolina games. So if the start of the season has to be pushed up, why not tie it in to the bowl games?
The ACC has affiliations with bowl games in Miami (Orange), Atlanta (Peach), D.C. (Military), and Charlotte (Belk), all in or near the hometowns of ACC schools. They can easily schedule four "home" games to coincide with the bowls for Miami, Georgia Tech, Maryland, and any of the North Carolina schools. Now they can't leave the other slot open for whichever team makes the bowl game, but even so, an ACC game the night before the bowl game will draw a decent crowd. String them out one or two a night between Christmas and New Year's and fill in the other three games and standard home locations, and you've got an exciting countdown to the start of real basketball, and a nice counterpoint to the lesser bowl games. And we don't unbalance conference play with a few forgettable games in early December.