Here's how the ACC did in Friday's games in the NCAA Tournament:
- Virginia beat Albany, 84-57
- Georgia Tech lost to UNLV, 67-63
- Virginia Tech beat Illinois, 54-52
The rest of the field:
- Memphis 73, North Texas 58
- Winthrop 74, Notre Dame 64
- Tennessee 121, Long Beach State 86
- Nevada 77, Creighton 71
- Wisconsin 76, TACC 63
- Oregon 58, Miami (OH) 56
- Kansas 107, Niagara 67
- Purdue 72, Arizona 63
- Texas 79, NMSU 67
- Kentucky 67, Villanova 58
- Southern Illinois 61, Holy Cross 51
- Florida 112, Jackson State 69
- USC 77, Arkansas 60
It's been a striking day in a number of ways. First, the performances of Winthrop and Texas A&M Corpus-Christi.
Both teams started hot against higher-ranked teams, and both saw huge rallies. Winthrop survived Notre Dame's; TA-CC fell to Wisconsin. But early in both games, the underdogs were magnificent.
TA-CC jumped out to a 25-9 lead against Wisconsin and made the Badgers look just pathetic. But Wisconsin bounced back and took the lead at about the 9:30 mark and won by seven.
Winthrop against Notre Dame...wow. Their performance was just stunning. A 37-10 run made Notre Dame look like they were running in quicksand. They were relentless and superb. Which made Notre Dame's comeback even more amazing. Unfortunately for Mike Brey's bunch, it fell short as Winthrop won by 10.
The games to an extent typified a theme of this tournament, which is that the gap between the top and the bottom has narrowed again.
It's not like everyone is on the same level as Florida, Kansas, Ohio State and UNC, but the difference between the next level of traditional powers like Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan State has narrowed.
It's not like any of them are going away. All of them made the field and most of them won. But none of them have any guarantees anymore.
And it's the same thing in the next round: Maryland gets Butler, Oregon can't be thrilled about Winthrop, Virginia Tech sees Southern Illinois, and Pittsburgh is forced to acknowledge VCU.
In a broad sense, it's a great thing for college basketball. And it validates what we argued several years ago: as the elite teams struggle to keep a core together, teams like Winthrop (or VCU), with three and four-year players, have a considerable advantage over teams which can only count on their stars for one or two years.
But that doesn't loosen the grip the power conferences still have on the tournament. Consider: six conferences have 25 of the 32 spots left.
- ACC: (5) UNC, B.C., UVa, Virginia Tech, Maryland
- Big Ten: (5) Purdue, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State
- Big East: (3) Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Louisville
- SEC: (4) Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee
- PAC-10: (5) Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington State, Southern Cal
- Big 12: (3) Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M
There's still room left for Butler, Winthrop, UNLV, VCU, Xavier, Nevada and Memphis, and Memphis is notably dangerous. But unless things change radically, the Final Four will likely consist of four teams from the six conferences mentioned above.