Duke vs Syracuse And the 10 New ACC Showdowns We Can't Wait To See

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2011

Duke vs Syracuse And the 10 New ACC Showdowns We Can't Wait To See

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    The addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference is a colossal move for the ACC. The ACC will gain two basketball powerhouses, and maybe a third if Connecticut eventually makes the transition.

    Once this realignment goes into effect, the new mega-conference will be the best basketball conference in America.

    A lot of people are upset about Syracuse and Pitt abandoning the Big East, and many will miss the old Big East rivalries. But there are plenty of great things to look forward to.

    It might be a couple years before we actually see the Panthers and Orange competing against ACC foes, so fans have to be patient. Nonetheless, it's exciting to think about some of the new match ups and scenarios we'll see once the likes of Duke, Maryland, and North Carolina face Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

    Let's take a peek at 10 games that college basketball fans won't want to miss:

Pittsburgh vs Duke

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    When you think Duke basketball, you think discipline and defense. When you think Pitt basketball, you think discipline and defense. This has the makings of a fantastic rivalry.

    Everyone knows how great Coach K is, but few truly know how great Jamie Dixon is.

    He has led the Panthers to seven straight seasons of at least 20 wins (including at least 10 conference wins).

    Under Dixon, the Panthers have been to the Big East title game four times, and their physical style of play is the key to this success.

    The last time these two teams played, Pitt edged out Duke in a 65-64 classic in Madison Square Garden in 2007. Look for more instant classics when these two teams collide. Keep in mind that both teams play in small gyms packed with rowdy student sections, to the atmosphere will be electric.

UConn vs North Carolina

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    When these two programs square off, it will be a battle of athleticism.

    Both of these teams have the tools to make a title run every year. UNC runs an efficient secondary break at a blistering pace, while UConn has an elite crop of young talent for the future.

    Also, this rivalry showcases two coaches that have combined for 5 of the past 12 NCAA championships.

    Will Jim Calhoun's Huskies be able to slow down the jaw-dropping speed of the Tar Heels? Will the Tar Heels be able to handle UConn's combination of physicality and finesse?

    Storrs and Chapel Hill are dying to find out.

Syracuse vs. Boston College

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    This match-up will be a throwback to the old-school Big East.

    Boston College left the Big East six years ago, and hasn't made as much of an impact on the ACC as it did in the Big East.

    The addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse could add an extra spark to how the Eagles approach the ACC.

    Boston College coach Steve Donahue has faced Jim Boeheim a handful of times in the past while coaching the underdog Cornell Big Red- and he gave the Orange a run for their money.

    Look for Donahue to really test Syracuse now that he has major-conference talent to work with. Watch for these old foes to reignite their rivalry.

North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh

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    UNC and Pitt are both very unfamiliar with one another, which will make for a very interesting showdown.

    These squads play contrasting styles of basketball: UNC relies on speed and an athletic defense that creates turnovers and fast breaks.

    Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is one of the best half-court teams in the country, and relies on physicality.

    UNC likes to win games scoring 75 to 85 points, while Pittsburgh routinely holds their opponents in the 50's and 60's. Something's got to give.

    It will be great entertainment watching Jamie Dixon and Roy Williams match wits; both are intense, fiery coaches that will have their teams well-prepared to face the obstacles of the other.

    If the Tar Heels can play tough and handle Pitt's brand of ball, they'll do fine.

UConn vs. Duke

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    This match-up pits the top two coaches in college basketball.

    Jim Calhoun has 3 NCAA titles and 7 Big East Tournament titles, while Coach K has 4 NCAA titles and 13 ACC Tournament titles.

    In the future, ACC titles won't be so easy for Krzyzewski, because he'll have to take down Calhoun to do it.

    Last time they met was in the Final Four in 2004, when Emeka Okafor and the Huskies prevailed over J.J. Redick's Blue Devils.

    Most of UConn and Duke's current talent will already be in the NBA by the time they meet in the ACC; but you can bet they'll both surely be reloaded and ready to start a rivalry.

Florida State vs. Pittsburgh

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    During head coach Leonard Hamilton's tenure at Florida State, the Seminoles have gradually risen in the ranks of the ACC.

    In the past they've been considered an afterthought underdog, but not anymore. Last season they finished third out of 12.

    They'll need to adjust to the new influx of talent from Pittsburgh and Syracuse in order to keep climbing the conference ladder.

    Florida State was 13th in the country in rebounding last season, and they will have to attack the glass even more in the future to succeed against the Panthers, who were 8th in the country on the boards.

    This is a compelling match-up because it features two young, energetic coaches, and two physical teams.

Syracuse vs. North Carolina

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    Games between Syracuse and North Carolina will feature outstanding athletes and huge crowds. Both teams play in large domes and like to get out and run.

    For the coaches, it will be a rematch of the 2003 title game, when Boeheim's Orange beat William's Kansas Jayhawks.

    In more recent times, UNC and Syracuse faced off in the 2K Sports title game in 2009, with the Orange hammering the Tar Heels 87-71.

    Boeheim's boys stifled Carolina's attack, holding them to 38 percent from the field that night. Don't expect similar results the next time around, as the Tar Heels will certainly adjust to the 2-3 zone.

UConn vs. Maryland

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    Even though Maryland isn't the program it was during the prime of Gary Williams' tenure, this match-up will be potent because these are two proud programs.

    Maryland has always relished the opportunity to take down Duke, and I'm sure they'll welcome the opportunity to upset UConn.

    Both the Terrapins and Huskies have underrated fan bases, and it will be fun to see how UConn's marquee recruits handle the heckling from a rabid Terps crowd.

    The Maryland area has consistently been a hotbed of high school talent, and new head coach Mark Turgeon will have to work hard to keep that talent home in order to compete with squads like UConn.

Duke vs. Syracuse

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    Here we have another match-up that offers a contrast in styles.

    Krzyzewski's Duke teams are much more structured and disciplined on offense, while Syracuse's offense is more of a free-flowing style.

    Defensively, the Blue Devils play a stifling man-to-man, whereas the Orange favor a zone. 

    Syracuse fans will be excited to see Coach K and company come to town, and they will undoubtedly pack the Carrier Dome to see Duke face their Orange.

    But the Dome faithful might not be pleased with the outcome of the game; Duke is a higher-caliber program and plays more efficiently.

Pittsburgh vs. Virginia Tech

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    The Hokies are another ACC team that has gradually worked its way toward the upper half of the conference.

    Head coach Seth Greenberg has fashioned a few landmark upsets against UNC and Duke in 2007 and 2011, and won ACC coach of the year in 2005 and 2008.

    He'll need to have his Virginia Tech squad firing on all cylinders to keep up with Pitt.

    Both are half-court teams that grind out each possession. Pittsburgh has the higher pedigree, but that makes it all the more exciting for Virginia Tech to try and pull off a grand upset.