In a perfect world, Karl Hicks would schedule every ACC basketball game on a Wednesday or a Saturday, just like N.C. State has this week.
Pencil in a conference game, budget two days off and then add another conference game. Repeat eight times and hello, ACC Tournament.
Unfortunately for Hicks, the ACC's associate commissioner for men's basketball operations, the real world doesn't work that way.
The Wolfpack's trip to Virginia is the only league game on the schedule tonight. There was one conference game Tuesday and three others are scheduled for Thursday.
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Between the demands of the ACC's television contracts and the unbalanced nature of the conference schedule, Hicks fields plenty of complaints.
"Even in a perfect world, you're going to have complaints," Hicks said.
"Turnaround" games, with only one day between games, lead the list of gripes among the coaches, from Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to Maryland's Gary Williams. But there are other quirks, such as the order of the conference games and open dates, which make life harder on Hicks and the ACC.
"We're doing the best we can do," Hicks said. "Without a true [round-robin] schedule, there are going to be problems."
Scheduling variations already have impacted what is a close ACC race thus far:
The Sunday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday sets of games top the coaches' list of complaints. For example, Duke hosts Georgia Tech on Thursday and then has to travel to Boston College for a Saturday road game.
Maryland's first conference loss came on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Wake Forest, after beating Florida State at home two days earlier.
"Coaches tell me what they don't like in the schedule, and on the top of the list are Sunday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday games," Hicks said. "We can't eliminate those ... but we do our best to spread them around."
Television revenue is the primary reason for the short turnaround. That, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said, is the price the ACC pays for uneven scheduling, which has the Hokies in a stretch of three games in seven days.
"If [TV is] going to pay us a lot of money, they've got control," Greenberg said. "We have to understand that we can't have our cake and eat it, too."
The contract with Fox Sports moved at least one weekly conference game to Sunday and calls for four to be played in December. ESPN and three of its channels have picked up games for Tuesday and Thursday, giving the ACC a television presence five days a week.
On the opposite end of the short turnaround problem is extra time off.
UNC had five days off before beating N.C. State on Jan. 26. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack traveled to Maryland after an emotional win over Duke, on the Saturday before it played UNC.
Every ACC team gets a Wednesday and a Saturday off once the conference schedule starts in January. N.C. State would have had a weekend off before tonight's game against Virginia but chose to play a nonconference game against N.C. Central on Saturday.
Duke went out of the ACC to play Georgetown on Saturday rather than rest for its two-games-in-three-days stretch. The Blue Devils will face Tulsa on Feb. 25 during its midweek ACC open date.
N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said he prefers to shorten practice time and give the players extra time off rather than have a gap in the schedule.
"We're hoping that it was good for us," Lowe said of the 77-42 win over N.C. Central, which has yet to beat a Division I opponent. "Getting a win is always good."
Since expanding to 12 teams and eliminating the round-robin schedule that had teams play every league opponent twice, the order of conference games has basically been thrown in a blender.
N.C. State and Virginia are meeting for the second time tonight before the Wolfpack has even played Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Boston College or Miami once.
Georgia Tech-Florida State, Duke-Clemson, Miami-Boston College and Miami-Virginia Tech have also met twice already.
Lowe said he would prefer to go through the first eight games of the ACC schedule before playing an opponent twice.
"You would think ... that you would play everyone at least once, before you start playing teams twice," Lowe said.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett spent the previous three seasons at the Pac-10's Washington State, where the conference schedule is tightly played on a Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday basis with little deviation.
Bennett's Virginia team, which is off to a surprising 4-2 ACC start, will see the Wolfpack again before playing Maryland, Clemson, Florida State, Miami or Boston College once.
"It's a little different [than the Pac-10]," Bennett said. "I'll tell you at the end of the year which I like better."
Staff writer Robbi Pickeral contributed to this report.