The Wolfpacker

November 2019

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 137 of 139

136 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER A tlantic Coast Conference bas- ketball comes earlier and more often this year. Thanks mainly to the fledgling ACC Network, the most important hoops league in the country will showcase seven conference games Nov. 5 and 6, pairing most of its 15 teams in season-opening con- ference games the first week of November for the first of a record 20 regular-season league contests. (Duke is the odd devil out, playing its first ACC game Dec. 5; it opens the season Nov. 5 against Kansas at Madison Square Garden.) "I think this is a great way to showcase the ACC Network," said NC State head coach Kevin Keatts, whose team will host Georgia Tech at 8:30 p.m. at PNC Arena on the opening day of the season in the earliest conference game in school history. "I don't know if it is something we will do every year, but as long as we all are playing early games, I think it's something that will be good for the league." Surprisingly to some, this is nothing new. Going back to the old days of the South- ern Conference, when NC State was part of an unwieldy collection of 17 teams in one of the nation's oldest extant leagues, early games against loop rivals were a tradition. In the last season before the start of World War II, 1940-41, NC State's sched- ule consisted of 15 Southern Conference games with no out-of-league contests. When war-time semi-pro and barnstorming teams — like the McCrary Eagles, Hanes Hosiery and the base-specific teams that were made up of college-aged players — became popular, they were often used as soft openers for the season before league games started. After the war, teams jumped right back into conference play to start their seasons. The first game in Reynolds Coliseum, on Dec. 2, 1949, was against Southern Confer- ence-foe Washington & Lee. Hall of Fame coach Everett Case opened that season with three consecutive league games, playing more than 20 percent of his conference schedule before venturing out of SoCon play. He not only won his fourth of six con- secutive league championships that year, his team advanced to the 1950 NCAA semifinals (what would now be called the Final Four), where it lost to City College of New York and then beat Baylor in the consolation game to finish third in the tournament. The first game in ACC history was on Dec. 2, 1953, a 53-49 Maryland victory over South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. Case, the most important figure in ACC men's basketball history, actually lost his first two conference games, the first to Wake Forest on Dec. 8, 1953, and then to Duke on Jan. 9, 1954. But the Wolfpack won the inaugural ACC Tournament in Reynolds Coliseum. The Wolfpack also played three straight ACC games to open the 1962-63 campaign, in the aftermath of the point-shaving scan- dal in which NC State and North Carolina were both forced by the university system to limit their regular-season schedules. Case resigned due to health reasons on Dec. 6, 1964, following a loss at Wake Forest, which was the second game of the 1964-65 season. Case successor Press Maravich made his debut as head coach two days later at Maryland. He faced league foes in two of his first three games the next season as well. Norm Sloan's second and third games as head coach were a pair of home losses to Wake Forest and Maryland. In 1967-68, his second season at his alma mater, the Pack opened with road victories at those two schools Dec. 2 and Dec. 6. That's the last time NC State faced a league school in the sea- son opener, though there have been early league games since then. But never one in November, and cer- tainly never one this early. Twice, during the days of the old Big Four Championship in Greens- boro, the Wolfpack opened the sea- son with November games against North Carolina and Duke, but those games did not count in the confer- ence standings. The Wolfpack's most recent early ACC game was in Sidney Lowe's first season as head coach, a 65-61 loss at Virginia, on Dec. 3, 2006, which was the Pack's sixth game of the season and the earliest league game for NC State since the 1967-68 opener. Helping the new network get a strong start in basketball is good for everyone in the league, and the 20-game ACC schedule is something both fans and coaches wanted. That new schedule did create some inter- esting quirks. One will be NCSU playing the other three members of the Big Four twice in the regular season for the first time in four years. Hopefully, this means a standard home-and-home meeting with Duke in coming seasons. That the Wolfpack plays three consecu- tive ACC road games in February is not all that unusual either, though there will likely some long discussions about it during the shortest month of the year, mainly because of the distance Keatts and his team will travel from Miami to Syracuse to Boston College, more than 4,400 miles round trip. When it last played three straight road games, in February 2015, the Pack went to North Carolina, Clemson and Boston College, less than half this year's total distance. For basketball fans, the new scheduling model will allow five consecutive months of ACC games, six if two league teams face each other in the Final Four in Atlanta April 4-6. ■ ■ PACK PERSPECTIVE NC State Opens The Season With Its Earliest Conference Game Ever Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker and can be reached at The Wolfpacker is a publication of: Coman Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Offices are located at 905 West Main St., Ste. 24F, Durham, N.C. 27701. (919) 688-0218. The Wolfpacker (ISSN 0273-8945) is published bimonthly. A subscription is $39.95 for six issues. For advertising or subscription information, call (800) 421-7751 or write The Wolfpacker. Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Wolfpacker, P.O. Box 2331, Durham, N.C. 27702. Periodical mail postage paid at Durham, N.C. 27702 and additional offices. First-class postage is $14 extra per year. E-mail: • Web site: When Kevin Keatts and his squad host Georgia Tech Nov. 5 it will be the first conference foe in the season opener for the Wolfpack since the 1967-68 season. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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