Now that the 2014 season is in our rearview mirror, it's timely to reexamine a theory about first-place ACC finishers and how they affect NCAA participation by other conference members.
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Indications persist that the more dominant the ACC's top men's basketball team during the regular season, the fewer league members will be invited to the NCAA tournament. That impression was contradicted in 2013, but the evidence remains persuasive.
The ACC sent a majority of its teams to the NCAAs in all but one season between 1984 through 1998. That changed dramatically starting in 1999, when Duke was undefeated in league play and only two other ACC teams got bids.
We can argue what changed: rising parity, envious politicking from other conferences, coaching changes, talent dilution caused by NBA defections. Clearly, though, there's been a pronounced shift in perception, if nothing else, regarding the strength of ACC squads.
While the particulars varied from year to year, for a while ACC teams seemed oddly at the mercy of the conference leader. The more the first-place finisher dominated, incurring fewer league losses, the fewer ACC members get NCAA invitations. Conversely, the more defeats suffered by the top finisher or finishers, the broader the ACC's representation in the NCAA tournament.
If the top team had two or fewer losses, as happened nine times in the past 16 years, including the 2014 season, a minority of ACC members got NCAA bids. When the regular season leader had three or more losses, more times than not (5 of 7) at least half of the ACC's members got bids
Surely this is more than coincidence.
The rule held last season. Virginia topped the ACC with two losses in 18 league contests and, sure enough, only six of 15 squads got NCAA bids. But in 2013 Miami won out with three conference losses and a mere four ACC clubs made the NCAAs.
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NCAA Bids For ACC, Related To Strength of First Place Team
|Season||Lossed By |
|1st Place |
|NCAA Bids |
|# Began playing 18 regular-season ACC games.
* ACC had highest RPI of any league.