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ACC Roundup - The Best League? That's So Settled

The ACC has emerged as clearly the best conference in the country and it's not even close.

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Mar 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (center) reacts with teammates after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half in a semifinal game in the East regional of the NCAA Tournament
Mar 25, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Demetrius Jackson (center) reacts with teammates after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half in a semifinal game in the East regional of the NCAA Tournament
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Well the Elite Eight is set and the ACC has half of it.

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Virginia and UNC won easily while Syracuse and Notre Dame had dramatic finishes to advance.

Virginia did about what we expected to Iowa State. For a team that hasn't experienced what Virginia does, it must be kind of mind-boggling. And for teams that like to move up and down the court, it must be like running in molasses.

About the only thing that did surprise us was how easily Virginia managed to score at the end. It wasn't like Iowa State was going to come back that late, but still: the Cyclones simply couldn't stop Virginia at the end.

And we should say that Virginia looked very, very good.

Remember how UNLV's mascot was a Runnin' Rebel but they always had a shark when Tark was there? A second mascot is kind of cool.

Late in the season, somebody at Duke started showing up as a blue lemur. Also kind of cool.

Well, Virginia could use a second mascot too. We'd like to suggest a python because really, Virginia just squeezes the life out of you. It would be really fun to see the Cavalier fans bring toy snakes to games.

We've said from time to time that we don't enjoy Virginia's deliberate offensive style but their defense is something else.  We can understand why Virginia fans are so fond of it.

The French have a term which seems appropriate: Jolie laide, meaning beautiful ugly, more or less. It's no fun to see your team play them, but as ACC fans, it's a lot of fun to watch them discombobulate opponents. One of the greatest shots we saw all year was of Rick Pitino on the bench, ashen-faced, completely stunned by what Virginia was doing to his team. The man was utterly helpless and it showed.

So we hope UVA does it to a few more teams before the tournament is over.

As for UNC, we thought the Heels had an advantage inside but thought Indiana could keep up, more or less.

Apparently not. UNC dismantled Indiana like they dismantled sinced the Heels thrashed Pitt.

Well, except for Virginia in the ACC finals. But check out UNC has done since losing to Duke on February 17th:

  • Miami by 25
  • State by 12
  • Syracuse by 5
  • Duke by 4
  • Pitt by 17
  • Notre Dame by 31
  • Virginia by 4
  • Florida Gulf Coast by 16
  • Providence by 19
  • Indiana by 15

We left out the loss to Virginia (by 5).

The average winning margin in these games has been just under 15.

At this point, UNC has the best combination of inside play, guard play, depth and defense and should be considered the odds-on favorite.

Syracuse, Notre Dame and Virginia have either beaten them or nearly beaten them.

You can't rule out Oklahoma or Oregon, but each has trouble matching up with the Heels.

On the other hand, you can't rule out teams that just manage to get it done somehow and so far, Syracuse and Notre Dame fit that particular bill.

The Irish were admittedly lucky to beat Stephen F. Austin but the win over Minnesota wasn't luck. It was grit and heart. You don't get much more clutch than Demetrius Jackson in the last minute of that game and that steal at the end...what a remarkable play. He was just brilliant.

And as for Syracuse, which was lucky to make the field in the first place, well the Orange obviously deserved to be in.

Can we just say a quick word about Domantas Sabonis though?

The guy has an impossible legacy to live up to because his dad, Arvydas, was a stunningly skilled 7-4 center. He's been called a 7-4 Larry Bird, in fact. Because he was born in the USSR, he never had a chance to play professionally at the peak of his game.

Well, that guy could play against anyone. He was truly, truly great. Watch this clip to get some idea. Or this one. The only guys we can think of who could have made this pass are Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

He would've been right there with Russell, Chamberlain and Walton and ahead of Olajuwon and O'Neal.

That said, his kid is turning into some kind of player. 
Smaller than his dad at just 6-11, Domantas is making his own name. It must be incredibly hard to follow a legend. Grant Hill would have some idea. So would Gary Payton II.

Young Sabonis has improved tremendously since last year. Who knows what his ceiling is? No one can do what his father did but we love the kid. He's become a wonderful player.

But the night belonged to Syracuse and two brilliant defensive plays and a clutch play by Michael Gbinije were the difference.

First, Gbinije made a clutch layup in traffic. Then Trevor Cooney stole the ball. The ref ruled him out of bounds - in error - but it was still a phenomenal play.

Then, with four seconds left and a one-point lead, Tyler Lydon made a tremendous block.

Then he hit a pair of free throws to seal the deal.

So far, the ACC is going to pull in $40 million from this tournament. Last year's take was $30 million. Here's a breakdown from

Our math is always shaky, but that works out to about $4.6 million per member for the last two years, which is a pretty great secondary income stream.

The money might come in handy at Georgia Tech, where the Yellow Jackets have fired Brian Gregory. The buyout for Paul Hewitt was legendarily expensive - Tech still owes Hewitt $2.7 million - and Gregory had two years left. His buyout is $1.3 million.

Four million is a good chunk of change.

At Tech now the conversation moves on to Gregory's successor.

Mark Price's name will likely come up, but he's had just one year at Charlotte and finished 14-19 so it's probably too soon.

Brice Drew's name has too as has Archie Miller's of course and Chris Mack.

Georgia Tech A.D. Mike Bobinski was previously A.D. at Xavier so of course he knows Mack well.

All of these guys would be solid hires, even the inexperienced Price. Underestimating that guy is a very bad idea.

Given the ACC, given Atlanta, given the talent bed that is Georgia, for the right guy, this job is a plum.