Shockingly, the ACC’s inaugural slate of Big Monday basketball games on ESPN leaked on ESPN.com. As stunning, the worldwide leader reserved that exclusive, prime-time window for the conference’s best projected teams.
That group includes Virginia. The Cavaliers will appear on three of the eight Big Monday’s: the Jan. 13 debut, at Duke, Jan. 20 at home against North Carolina and Feb. 10 at home against Maryland.
North Carolina also appears three times, Duke, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Maryland twice each, and Pittsburgh and Florida State once.
That’s eight of the ACC’s 15 teams. Virginia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami are not included.
Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia and Notre Dame are my current ACC preseason top five, with the Tar Heels’ place hinging on how many games P.J. Hairston, their top returning scorer and a serial knucklehead, is suspended.
With his top five scorers returning, led by all-conference wing Joe Harris, plus South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill and 2012-13 redshirt Malcolm Brogdon, coach Tony Bennett has the best and deepest roster of his five seasons in Charlottesville.
Big Monday has been an ESPN staple since 1987, when the network began airing a weekly doubleheader showcasing the Big East at 7 p.m., and the Big Ten at 9. Hence the “Big” in Big Monday.
The Big Eight, now the Big 12, took over the Big Ten’s slot in 1992. When the new Big East — the conference’s seven Catholic schools joined with Xavier, Creighton and Butler — left ESPN for Fox, the ACC was happy to take over the 7 p.m., Big Monday opener.
The ACC grows from 12 to 15 teams this season with the additions of former Big East members Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame.
Now if only the ACC would take the Big East's ESPN Friday night (semifinals) and Saturday night (championship game) slots for the conference tournament. Yes, that's a crusade, and yes, I believe it's going to happen.
ESPN’s Big Monday schedule:
Jan. 13: Virginia at Duke; Kansas at Iowa State.
Jan. 20: North Carolina at Virginia; Baylor at Kansas.
Jan. 27: Duke at Pittsburgh; Oklahoma State at Oklahoma.
Feb. 3: Notre Dame at Syracuse; Iowa State at Oklahoma State.
February 10: Maryland at Virginia; Kansas at Kansas State.
Feb. 17: North Carolina at Florida State; Oklahoma State at Baylor.
Feb. 24: Syracuse at Maryland; Oklahoma at Kansas.
March 3: Notre Dame at North Carolina; Kansas State at Oklahoma State.
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