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Barry Jacobs On Losses By Championship Teams

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Following Florida State's win over North Carolina earlier this month, much was made of the 33-point margin. No Roy Williams team had lost so decisively in his nine years at the helm of his alma mater.

Go back farther in a head coaching career that began in 1988-89, and there's a single instance of a Williams team falling so emphatically. His 2000 Kansas Jayhawks lost 86-53 -- again a 33-point spread -- at Oklahoma State on Feb. 7. Kansas' season ended that year at Joel Coliseum in the NCAA second round against Duke.

The 2012 result at Tallahassee was so decisive and unexpected, it's understandable the focus was on the Tar Heels, ranked third nationally at the time.

The attention also derived in part from the sputtering season's start for FSU, expected to be the ACC's third-best team. That prediction seems a lot more astute now - the UNC win was matched eight days by a last-second victory at Duke. Florida State beat Maryland in between.

Losing to a quality opponent is always a possibility. We got to wondering, though, about the extent of the defeat suffered by a Tar Heel unit considered an NCAA title contender. One game does not make a season, but can signal a telling flaw.

Had any of the dozen ACC squads that captured a national championship over the years overcome a setback of 33-point proportion prior to NCAA competition?

Such an investigation offers an immediate attraction for the lazy researcher: NCAA titlists generally avoid more than a handful of losses, significantly narrowing the field of possibility.

In fact the first champs from the ACC, the 1957 Tar Heels, went through the entire season without a defeat.

The most lopsided loss so far by an eventual NCAA champ came in 1993, when a UNC squad led by Eric Montross, George Lynch, Donald Williams, Brian Reese, and Derrick Phelps fell by 26 points at Wake Forest.

Duke's 4-point loss at Wake in February 1992 was the least lopsided. Those Blue Devils, led by Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Grant and Thomas Hill, and Brian Davis, dropped just two games, both on the road. Fans stormed the court at Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem after topping a Duke team that elicited strong emotions.

Only Duke in '01 and UNC in '09 fell hardest at home. The Tar Heel loss to BC came in their ACC opener. The Devils' Cameron crash against Maryland on Feb. 27, in which Carlos Boozer was hurt, proved the squad's last loss of the season.

Winston-Salem is apparently a major hazard along the road to glory -- of the 12 worst defeats incurred by the ACC's future national titlists, four came at Wake.

Most Decisive Defeats Suffered By ACC Teams En Route to NCAA Championship
L Margin
Team Year Total
Score, Opponent
0 North Carolina 1957 0 NA
4 Duke 1992 2 72-68 @ WF
7 North Carolina 2009 4 85-78 v. BC
11 Duke 2001 4 91-80 v. M
13 North Carolina 2005 4 95-82 @ WF
14 Duke 2010 5 88-74 @ NCS
16 North Carolina 1982 2 74-58 @ V
18 N.C. State 1974 1 84-66 v. UCLA (Neut.)
18 N.C. State 1983 10 99-81 @ NC
91-73 @ WF
21 Maryland 2002 4 99-78 @ D
22 Duke 1991 7 96-74 v. NC (ACCT)
26 North Carolina 1993 4 88-62 @ WF

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