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Expansion to 20 Conference Basketball Games Could Mean End to ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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How do we feel about this?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As you already heard yesterday, the ACC will move to 20 conference basketball games per season in 2019. The surprising change will coincide with the launch of the ESPN-backed ACC Network, obviously to increase the inventory of owned (quality) games each season.

Sean pointed out one potential pitfall to this news yesterday: it likely means the Syracuse Orange are done playing a full roster of former Big East pals in non-conference play. Every year since departing our old league, we've played at least two of Villanova, St. John's, Georgetown and UConn in the same season. This year, we've scheduled three (the latter of those listed previously). If you already have 20 ACC games, you're not potentially writing in more difficult (possibly road) opponents if you don't have to. From 2019 on, the Orange seem unlikely to play more than one or two max.

Which brings us to the other potential casualty of the 20-game move: the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise, following the announcement:

"Coaches I talked last season said if the schedule goes to 20 games, they will push for the end of events like the ACC/Big Ten Challenge."

Far from ironclad, of course. But if those coaches are some of the bigger names in the room (Jim Boeheim, Coach K, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino), there's a shot this has legs. ESPN is a Big Ten partner and the broadcast home of the Challenge since its inception. But as the B1G gets tighter and tighter with its other partner, Fox (hi, pointless Gavitt Tipoff Games), maybe ESPN wants to put the time and effort into the ACC instead?

From our standpoint, the next question, however, is do we care? As Syracuse fans, we've only witnessed the Challenge firsthand three times, with just three more (including this year's) until the switch to 20 games. If removing an annual game against a Big Ten foe we're not overly enamored with means we can definitely play two of the 'Nova/St. John's/Georgetown/UConn group each year, I'm sort of for it. But is it what's truly best for the ACC?

Jury's honestly out, because a lot of them also have situations like ours: non-conference games they pursue annually that matter a whole lot more than a random Tuesday night game against Wisconsin/Michigan/Minnesota, etc. Louisville plays Kentucky annually, and Duke and/or North Carolina usually does too. Florida State plays Florida. Clemson plays South Carolina. Georgia faces off with Georgia Tech. Notre Dame plays Purdue and sometimes Indiana. These teams like to schedule other challenging non-conference games too. So why not remove the trip to Iowa City where there are no recruits, and get in front of kids in Chicago or Dallas or D.C. -- cities that are more advantageous to play in?

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Again, ultimately, this may not matter. It's talk until ACC coaches get a bit more vocal on eliminating the ACC/B1G Challenge. If we can guarantee more games against the old Big East gang as a tradeoff, perfect. Get rid of the thing. If not, then whatever. It can stay in place as-is and we'll do just fine too.