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Virginia Basketball ACC schedule breakdown: Part I

Taking a look at the first six conference games of the season for the reigning national champs.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In 15 short days, the Virginia basketball season gets underway as the Hoos take a trip to balmy Syracuse, New York for a matchup with the Orange. This is the first season that the Cavaliers will start with a conference game (thanks, ACC Network), and the first season that teams will have 20 (!!) conference games. In order to get you ready for the season, we are going to break the ACC schedule into three parts.

Virginia went 16-2 in the ACC last season en route to winning the National Championship, and 17-1 the season before. The Cavaliers have had at least a share of the ACC regular season crown for two straight seasons and in four of the last six. Things could be a little harder for the Hoos this season as they deal with the departures of De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome to the NBA and Jack Salt to graduation.

Let’s take a look at the six ACC games for the Hoos in 2019-20:

@ Syracuse (11/6) - On one hand, it’s brutal to start the season at a conference foe after you have had tons of turnover. On the other hand, at least you have tons of time to prepare for the infamous Syracuse zone defense? Syracuse came in at No. 51 in the preseason KenPom rankings, but also snuck in the ‘also receiving votes’ category in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. Elijah Hughes is a player to watch for the Orange, and Syracuse returns Marek Dolezaj and Buddy Boeheim (along with some others) this season.

No. 9 North Carolina (12/7 or 12/8) - Things don’t get easier for the Cavaliers as an early December against the Tar Heels looms large. This is a flex game depending on the potential for one of the teams being in the ACC Championship game on December 7 in Charlotte, but regardless of whether it’s Saturday or Sunday, it’ll be a big test. The Tar Heels come in a couple spots ahead of the Hoos in the preseason AP Poll, and they were picked to finish third — one spot ahead of Virginia — in the preseason ACC standings. Preseason Rookie of the Year Cole Anthony is a player to watch.

This game is a tone-setter for the top of the league, which will once again be super competitive as Duke, Louisville, UNC, and Virginia are all picked to finish atop the conference standings.

Virginia Tech (1/4) - Gone is Buzz Williams as the Hokies welcome Wofford’s Mike Young to Blacksburg. The Hokies are not expected to make a lot of noise in the ACC this year after losing players to graduation and the transfer portal, but Wabissa Bede and Isaiah Wilkins (still weird) return for VT. They will also have Landers Nolley available after he missed last season as the NCAA declared him ineligible due to issues with his ACT scores.

@ Boston College (1/7) - Road games in the ACC are never gimmes, but Boston College is expected to have some struggles again this season. The Eagles were picked to finish 13th in the ACC, one spot ahead of Virginia Tech. BC went 5-13 in ACC play last season, but return Nic Popovic and add former Duke (and USC) guard Derryck Thornton.

Syracuse (1/11) - Oh hey, it’s Syracuse again!

@ Florida State (1/15) - Another team that received votes in the preseason AP Poll, FSU is going to be solid again this season under Leonard Hamilton. They return MJ Walker, Trent Forrest, and Raiquan Gray to anchor a team that was picked to finish fifth in the conference, and, as per usual, Hamilton has put together a roster chock full of extremely tall, athletic players with ridiculous length and wingspan.

Oh, and they have two 7-footers this year.

The Seminoles were the last team to beat the Cavaliers in the 2018-19 season as FSU bested Virginia in the ACC tournament.

This is actually a tough start to the season for Virginia, although just about any combination would be difficult in the ACC. Expect North Carolina and FSU to finish in the top-5 of the conference this season, and Syracuse is a team with a lot of expectations and questions. The possibility of Virginia going 3-3 in this stretch is realistic until you factor in Tony Bennett basketball teams rarely have as much of a drop off as some may expect.

Stay tuned for the rest of the ACC schedule later this week!