Virginia’s rise from preseason obscurity to first-place ACC finisher is quite impressive. Even if the Cavaliers don’t win at Louisville tonight, or handle Notre Dame with a physically reclaimed Bonzie Colson, the 2018 ACC preseason player of the year, they’ve clinched a perch atop the regular-season standings and a certain top-5 finish in the AP poll.
But their rise from unranked to ACC leader is not as rare is one might think. The ’18 Cavs are the fifth ACC team this century to start unnoticed nationally, only to finish with a piece of first place in the league.
In fact, it happened as recently as 2013 when Miami went from preseason poll obscurity to ACC leader. The Hurricanes went on to sweep through the ACC Tournament, capturing the conference’s official title. Of the four unrecognized to transcendent regular-season ACC teams since 2000, the Canes are the sole tournament winners.
Prior to UVa this year, two of the four teams that started unranked went on to grab a share of first – Virginia in ‘07 and Maryland in ‘10. Neither apparently impressed poll voters. Amazingly, Dave Leitao’s 2007 Cavs ended the regular-season still unranked despite tying UNC at 11-5 atop the conference race, while the 2010 Terps coached by Gary Williams finished ranked 24th.
Interestingly, of 20 teams this century that finished with a piece of first, only nine won the ACC Tournament. Discounting tied first-place finishers, so we’re not counting twice, that’s only a 50 percent success rate.
ACC First-Place Finishers, Preseason Through Regular Season in Polls
(Through Games of March 1, 2018)
|Year||School||Prior||End||ACC Tournament||NCAA Result|
|2017||North Carolina||6||6||L, semis v. Duke||Title|
|2016||North Carolina||1||8||title v. Virginia||Title Game|
|2015||Duke||4||3||L, semis v. Notre Dame||Title|
|2014||Virginia||4||5||title v. Duke||Sweet 16|
|2013||Miami||0||6||title v. North Carolina||Sweet 16|
|2012||North Carolina||1||4||L, final v. Florida State||Elite 8|
|2011||North Carolina||8||13||L, final v. Duke||Elite 8|
|2010||Duke||9||4||title v. Georgia Tech||Title|
|Maryland||0||24||L, quarters v. Ga. Tech||2nd round|
|2009||North Carolina||1||2||L, semis v. Florida State||Title|
|2008||North Carolina||1||1||title v. Clemson||Final Four|
|2007||North Carolina||2||8||title v. NC State||Elite 8|
|Virginia||0||0||L, quarters v. NC State||2nd round|
|2006||Duke||1||1||title v. Boston College||Sweet 16|
|2005||North Carolina||4||2||L, semis v. Georgia Tech||Title|
|2004||Duke||2||6||L, final v. Maryland||Final Four|
|2003||Wake Forest||0||9||L, semis v. NC State||2nd round|
|2002||Maryland||2||2||L, semis v. NC State||Title|
|2001||Duke||2||2||title v. North Carolina||Title|
|2000||Duke||10||4||title v. Maryland||Sweet 16|