There are 18 days left until UVA tips off against Morgan State. The Hoos play 18 ACC conference games this season, so let's take a look at the ACC schedule and see if Virginia can go back to back to back ACC Regular Season Champions.
Saturday 1/2/16 - Notre Dame: By the time the calendar turns to 2016, we should have a better idea of how the Irish have adjusted to life without Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant. Despite the loss of those two, Notre Dame returns Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste keeping the Irish formidable and looking to build on the momentum from their Elite Eight run last year.
Monday 1/4/16 - @Virginia Tech: Virginia has a short turnaround for the first of four Big Monday games. Playing in Cassell Coliseum is never easy as the Hokies (and their fans) seemingly turn out for this one. Buzz Williams is a good coach and has Virginia Tech pointed in the right direction so escaping Blacksburg with a win with only one day in between will be well earned.
Saturday 1/9/16 - @Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech should be better than the team that went 3-15 in conference last year. How much better is to be determined. They have experience after bringing in several transfers including Adam Smith from Virginia Tech. That said, Virginia should have no issue with the Yellow Jackets.
Tuesday 1/12 - Miami: Miami boasts as good a returning cast as just about anyone in the ACC with Tonye Jekiri, Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, and Davon Reed. Add to that they are very well coached and give the Hoos fits (see last year's overtime thriller). This will be one to circle early in the ACC season.
Sunday 1/17 - @Florida State: Until two year's ago, playing in Tallahassee had not been easy for the Hoos. This year Leonard Hamilton returns the majority of both his minutes and scoring and will be one of the most experienced teams in the ACC. Add to that a recruiting class some pegged as among the countries top ten and Florida State should return to the upper half of the ACC this season.
Tuesday 1/19 - Clemson: Clemson returns their top scorer from last year in forward Jaron Blossomgame. Add to that the fact that the Tigers play a style of defense that frustrates opposition and keeps Clemson in games they have not business being in. Reminiscent of Tony Bennett's early Virginia teams. So any game against Clemson doesn't figure to be easy, but the talent just isn't there to compete with a top echelon ACC team.
Saturday 1/23 - Syracuse: This will be the eighth of nine ACC games that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has to miss due to NCAA violations. On top of that, Syracuse will have just visited Duke on Monday, so no telling where they will emotionally. On the court this isn't Carmello Anthony's Syracuse but they do have Trevor Cooney who won't hesitate to chuck up three pointers over the pack line and Michael Gbinije who is 6-7 and presents matchup problems as he can shoot it from anywhere on the court. Either way, don't expect this showdown to have the hype it has in the last couple years.
Monday 1/25 - @Wake Forest: Another Saturday to Monday turn around has Virginia a little further down the road this time in Winston Salem. Danny Manning has the Demon Deacons turned in the right direction, however, they are still probably a year off. Last year's meetings with Wake were a tale of two games as in Charlottesville the Hoos needed a Malcom Brogdon steal in the final seconds to seal game. Then in a game without Justin Anderson and London Perrantes in Winston Salem the Hoos dismantled the Deacs 70-34. Expect this one to be a little tighter but the Hoos to ultimately prevail.
Saturday 1/30 - @Louisville: In the first meeting of the ACC "Rivals," Virginia travels to Louisville to face a team that has lost Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones, and Wayne Blackshear from last year's near Final Four Team. Returning is leading scorer Quentin Snyder and his 4.1 points per game. Add to that a team that is mired in potential scandal following a book released claiming that a Louisville assistant arranged parties with an escort for recruit visits. If Rick Pitino is still coaching this team at this point, they should be halfway decent and thus present a challenge for the Hoos.
Wednesday 2/3 - Boston College: There is not a lot to be excited about in Chestnut Hill. All-everything Olivier Hanlan is gone and there isn't much left in his place. This will be a nice home game sandwiched between two road tilts.
Saturday 2/6 - @Pitt: The Zoo is always a tough place to play, though the Hoos did find success in their only ACC visit back in 2014. Pitt returns most of their team from last year and should get back to being the physical, defensive team that Jamie Dixon is known for producing. The Panthers will be led by Junior Forward Jamel Artis, and should factor in to the ACC race come this point in February.
Tuesday 2/9 - Virginia Tech: Joining the Hokies this year will be Seth Allen who is the type of player that can give the Pack Line trouble and will give the Hokies a go to player that they haven't had in years. On top of that, the supporting cast is more talented on paper than it has been in recent years. While the Hokies don't generally play the Hoos as tough in Charlottesville, with Duke looming on Saturday this one will require every bit of Virginia's attention.
Saturday 2/13 - @Duke: Looking for their first win in Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995, the Hoos will come into this one as prepared as ever to accomplish the feat. Duke is coming off a National Championship but needs to replace virtually their entire team. Leading the way in terms of experience will be Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, and Grayson Allen. Not exactly a murderer's row of returning talent. But such is life when you live by the one and done. A star studded freshman class of Brandon Ingram, Derryck Thornton, and Chase Jeter will keep the Blue Devils one of the top teams in the country, and while none of them are on par with Jamil Okafor, this could be one of Coach K's most balanced "teams" in years.
Monday 2/15 - NC State: The Wolfpack will go as far as Anthony Barber will take them. The talented junior can score in bunches which is something NC State will need after Trevor Lacey unexpectedly left early for the NBA. Coming off a Saturday showdown in Durham it will be interesting to see how the Hoos respond. Will they be on an emotional high after taking down the Devils, or will they be looking to right the ship. Either way, NC State will prove a formidable test.
Monday 2/22 - @Miami: Virginia will get the weekend off before having to travel down to Miami for a rematch from back in January. Miami should be ranked at this point in the season and this game could be a huge factor in determining the ACC regular season. As noted earlier, despite not the best of home court advantages the Hurricanes have played the Hoos very tough in recent years in Coral Gables.
Saturday 2/27 - UNC: Can you say Gameday? If all goes to plan, this one will feature two top-5 teams battling for the top spot in the ACC. UNC's roster is loaded. These two split their games last year with the Hoos prevailing in Chapel Hill, and the Tar Heels winning in Greensboro (might as well be a home game). The returning starters for the Heels, Kennedy Meeks, Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Justin Jackson are about as good as they come. There isn't a whole lot you can say about this game now, but come 27 February, get your popcorn ready.
Tuesday 3/1 - @Clemson: Despite their lack of blue blood status and their relative lack of success in recent years, Littlejohn Colliseum hasn't been the easiest place for the Hoos to pick up a win. They have dropped four of their last five against the Tigers on the road. This will be the third of Virginia's return games, so there will be some familiarity on the season. Coming off the big Saturday game against the Tar Heels, the Hoos will need to be on top of their game to ride into March with a win.
Saturday 3/5 - Louisville: The ACC finale will be Senior Night as the Hoos honor Malcom Brogdon, Mike Tobey, Anthony Gill, Evan Nolte, and Caid Kirven. While Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell represented the class that turned things around at Virginia, this class made the Hoos a powerhouse. Louisville will look to play spoiler and will likely be playing for postseason positioning themselves.
There you have it, nine weeks of ACC basketball. What's your prediction for the Hoos ACC record? Which games do you think will give Virginia the most trouble? Leave us a note in the comments section and Go Hoos.