UNC will play NC State twice next season

When the ACC announced in February that basketball was expanding to an 18-game conference schedule, there was plenty of scuttlebutt around Tobacco Road when folks realized that meant rivals North Carolina and NC State would only play once during some regular seasons.

But apparently, that won’t happen until after 2012-13, at least.

NC State coach Mark Gottfried told ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz that his team’s schedule will include home-and-home games with UNC next season. The Tar Heels will also play Maryland twice and Clemson once (on the road), according to Katz’s story.

The full schedule -- and which teams will play which once or twice -- has not yet been released, but ACC associate commissioner Karl Hicks sent a mock-up of the matchups to coaches earlier this season. The scheduling is expected to be a hot topic during the ACC spring meetings, which begin Sunday in Amelia Island, Fla.

“Mine’s not easy," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told Katz of his team's slate. “But I don’t know how else you could do it."

Once the ACC officially expands to 14 teams by adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse (either in 2013-14 or 2014-15), the league’s new scheduling model will be based on a three-year cycle. Primary partners (UNC is paired with Duke) will play home and away each season. The other 12 teams will rotate in groups of four, with each team playing one group home-and-away; one group at home only, and one group on the road only.

That means UNC and NC State, which have met at least twice a year since the ACC was founded, will face off only once during some regular seasons.

Because the league will still have only 12 teams next season, though, Hicks had to come up with a stand-alone league schedule during which each team will play seven foes home-and-home, and then the other four only once -- two at home and two on the road.

“I traded Virginia Tech for Duke twice and Clemson for Florida State twice," said Gottfried, who will also play set rival North Carolina twice. “TV looked at our team and thought we’d be good."

Indeed, Hicks consulted with TV partner ESPN before ultimately deciding on its own schedule, Katz wrote:

“Television had input in some of the matchups and I balanced it with competitive equity where we thought our teams would be,’’ said Hicks. “It’s a one-year off. There is no rotation here. I’ve balanced it competitively. I’ve talked to a lot of people. I didn’t do it unilaterally. But I know the conference, and the players coming in and the teams as well as anybody.’’

That said, having the Tar Heels and Wolfpack play twice seems like a no-brainer -- not just because of the longstanding rivalry, but because both are already being projected as top-15 teams next season.

Hicks also told Katz that the conference schedule will start in January with no need to stretch into December.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.