This was the 15th time Roy Williams took a team to the ACC Tournament and the eighth he took to the championship contest.
Upon arrival from Kansas for the 2003-04 season it took Williams awhile to get over ambivalent feelings about returning to Chapel Hill, where he came at the bidding of his mentor, Dean Smith.
The price of embracing his roots was giving up a Kansas program Williams had built from the ravages of probation to a perennial national championship contender. He was revered, comfortable. So it was understandable Williams occasionally made “we” references to KU rather than UNC in his early days back at the Smith Center, and got a bit touchy about some things ACC.
That was the period in which Williams off-handedly dismissed the ACC Tournament as a “cocktail party,” a comment for which he attracted much flak.
Now he notes he’s more diplomatic, even as he hints he’s hardly more enamored with the tournament. “It’s not the most important thing in the world to me, there’s no question about that,” Williams said the other day. “So I’ve tried to stop being so crass and cruel about it. I want to win because I’m playing in it. Period.”
Williams sees little carryover effect for his teams from winning a league title. Of nine teams he’s taken to the Final Four, five at North Carolina, only two got warmed up by winning the conference tournament either in the Big Eight or the ACC.
None of his Tar Heel squads started their march to the top of the NCAA heap while waving an ACC tournament championship banner. But Williams’ Heels have won the ACC’s official title in 2007, 2008 and 2016.
In perusing the chart that follows, note that only three national champs from the ACC lost as many as seven games prior to the NCAA tournament: UNC in 2017, Duke in 1991 and of course NC State’s improbable 26-10 titlists under Jim Valvano a quarter-century ago. Of the contestants in this year’s ACC Tournament, only Virginia and Duke entered assured of losing no more than seven times on the season.
How NCAA Champions From ACC Fared En Route to Title
(ACC Column Indicates Regular Season)
|Year||NCAA Champ||ACC||All W/L||ACCT result||Coach|
|1957||North Carolina||14-0||32-0||W, 3-0||Frank McGuire|
|1974||NC State||12-0||30-1||W, 2-0||Norman Sloan|
|1982||North Carolina||12-2||32-2||W, 3-0||Dean Smith|
|1983||NC State||8-6||26-10||W, 3-0||Jim Valvano|
|1991||Duke||11-3||32-7||W, 3-0||Mike Krzyzewski|
|1992||Duke||14-2||34-2||W, 3-0||Mike Krzyzewski|
|1993||North Carolina||14-2||34-4||L, 2-1 final||Dean Smith|
|2002||Maryland||15-1||32-4||L, 1-1 semis||Gary Williams|
|2005||North Carolina||14-2||33-4||L, 1-1 semis||Roy Williams|
|2009||North Carolina||13-3||34-4||L, 1-1 semis||Roy Williams|
|2010||Duke||13-3||35-5||W, 3-0||Mike Krzyzewski|
|2015||Duke||16-2||30-4||L, 1-1 semis||Mike Krzyzewski|
|2017||North Carolina||14-4||33-7||L, 1-1 semis||Roy Williams|