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No Longer A Duopoly, The ACC Now Has Three Major Powers

As Virginia and Tony Bennett have staked a claim.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Charlotte
Virginia has arrived in the ACC, even if the post-season is still a struggle as UMBC proved anew this past spring.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

By now the truth is obvious, unless you’re in the habit of denouncing as “fake news” realities you simply don’t like.

Since the 2012 season the ACC has come to be dominated by three teams, not the eternal duo, Duke and North Carolina. Virginia has emphatically emerged as a third pillar of conference strength, even if Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers remain pushovers in postseason play.

All three ACC powers finished in the top five in the regular season in each of the last seven years. No other school has reached that uppermost echelon in the league more than three times in the seven years since ‘12.

UNC and UVa finished first in the ACC three times each in that span. Miami, which hangs close to the top directed by Jim Larranaga, won the regular season and ACC Tournament titles in 2013. Duke last finished in first place in 2010, one of its two national championships seasons during the 2010s.

Six of 13 teams in the league since the last major expansion in 2014, just under a majority, have finished in the top five at least three times in those seven years. That reflects stability, not to mention the difficulty of sustaining the breakthrough the Cavs have achieved.

Boston College, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest all failed to crack the top five over the past seven seasons. Each has made a coaching change during that span; BC and Virginia Tech tied with Clemson for fifth in 2011.

Louisville entered the ACC in 2015, the year following Maryland’s exit, and finished among the top five three times in four seasons, excluding only in 2018 under yearling coach David Padgett.

Finishes in ACC Top 5, Since 2012
(Ties in Standings Included)
School Top 5 First Years in First
Virginia 7 3 2018, 2015, 2014
North Carolina 7 3 2017, 2016, 2012
Duke 7 0
Miami 3 1 2013
Louisville 3 0
NC State 3 0
Notre Dame 3 0
Florida State 2 0
Clemson 1 0
Pittsburgh 1 0
Syracuse 1 0