As my dad always says on long trips, it won’t be as long as it has been and that is true for the newest members of the ACC: Pitt and Syracuse.
The two programs have essentially bought themselves out of the Big East and into the ACC a year early and that means the Blue Bloods of basketball have a new challenge ahead of them.
Duke and North Carolina have dominated the ACC in basketball for pretty much the last 25 years or more. And with the exception of Florida State, which won the 2012 ACC Tournament, it has been either Duke, North Carolina, or Maryland that has taken the title since 2000 and the Terps have only managed the feat one time.
Now with Pitt and Syracuse both coming on board, the top end of the ACC could start looking a lot different. The two schools will now be joining the ACC in July of 2013 instead of the initially projected 2014 timeline. While the two schools were added for their academic standing and to keep the ACC viable as a football conference amidst the seemingly manifest destiny toward super conferences, it is on the hardwood not the gridiron were Pitt and Syracuse will make the most noise.
Not everyone likes change and if Pitt and Syracuse provide the challenges that I fully expect they will, it might be the Duke and North Carolina fans that dislike the changes the most.
Don’t get me wrong, Pitt has been a solid football program in the Big East for the last few years and has a rich football tradition, but they haven’t exactly been competing for national titles. Syracuse once had a solid football program and has a rich history of its own with former greats like Jim Brown and Donovan McNabb having played for the Orange.
But it is basketball where these two programs have thrived recently. Pitt grew into a national contender, first under Ben Howland, now at UCLA and now under the leadership of Jamie Dixon, who has led Pitt to even greater heights.
Syracuse has been coached by Jim Boeheim forever, and has challenged for the Big East title just about every year. Now that you have two Big East juggernauts mixing it up with the likes of Duke and North Carolina, the status quo could very well change.
Pitt is a tough program and their home court is about as tough as they come. Reminiscent a bit of Cameron in that it is smaller than the big stadiums and the crowd can really affect the outcomes of games. The Carrier Dome, Syracuse’s home floor, obviously provides its own challenges. Shooting teams like Duke are likely to have difficulties adjusting to the rims due to the depth perception of playing in a dome that also serves as a football stadium.
When you figure in the resurgence of the NC State Wolf Pack, the days of Duke and North Carolina, North Carolina and Duke being automatically penciled in as No. 1 and No. 2 in the ACC standings could be numbered sooner than you think.
While I am in no way a fan of expansion and the dilution of the college traditions and rivalries, as well as the end to the round robin regular season play, I have to admit that I’m a bit excited about the idea of seeing Duke play Syracuse and Pitt, as well as seeing North Carolina mix it up with them, even if it only comes once a year.
It should provide for some intense ACC Basketball year in and year out and the recruiting battles will only get that much tougher year in and year out. You will see two of the greatest and most successful coaches in the history of college basketball going at it on a yearly basis as well as some of the most successful programs in this century.
So, if you enjoy the two team race that has been the ACC you might want to sit back and watch this season very closely, because unless North Carolina State pushes Duke or North Carolina off the top, which they could, this might be the last season those two will get a majority of the votes for first and second place.