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Marathon Men: ACC Tournament Four Game Winners

Winning the ACC without a bye of some kind is almost impossible. Just ask Duke 2017.

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ACC Basketball Tournament - Championship
 NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 11: Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates their 75-69 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the championship game of the 2017 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 11, 2017 in New York City.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Five teams have lasted through four rounds of an ACC Tournament, most recently Duke in 2017. The Blue Devils were the only four-step survivors who won every game they played.

This test of stamina, concentration and determination didn’t become possible until 1992, when the conference expanded to nine members. The odd number of teams required a tournament play-in game. The contest between the eighth and ninth seeds was officially called the First Round but almost immediately became known as the Les Robinson Invitational.

The nickname was testament to the perennial presence in that round of NC State squads coached by Robinson, whose teams were ninth-seeded in 1993, 1994 and 1996 and No. 8 in 1995.

When the first four-game survivor appeared in 1997 at the Greensboro Coliseum, it was ironically NC State under Herb Sendek, Robinson’s successor.

Sendek cleverly quit putting rebounders on the line during his squad’s free throw attempts in the semifinals against Maryland in order to rest his players’ legs; they fell back on defense while shooters made 15 of 21 at the line.

Among the more intriguing records set in ’97 was State’s Justin Gainey playing every one of his team’s 160 minutes, most ever in an ACC Tournament. The guard, now an assistant coach at Arizona under former NC State assistant Sean Miller, also had eight steals, a mark matched by UNC’s Marcus Paige in 2015.

The four-game point leader remains the Wolfpack’s Brandon Costner, with 90 points in 2007. That time the new NC State coach was Sidney Lowe.

Oddly, all but one survivor of four tournament games met North Carolina along the way. The exception was North Carolina, which fell to Notre Dame in the 2015 final.

Teams That Played Four Games In Single ACC Tournament
(In Consecutive Order By Round, # Indicates Seed)
Year Team Seed W-L Opponent by Round Score In Final
2017 Duke #5 4-0 Clemson #12
Louisville #4
North Carolina #1
Notre Dame #3 75-69
2015 UNC #5 3-1 Boston College #12
Louisville #4
Virginia #1
Notre Dame #3 82-90
2010 Ga. Tech #7 3-1 North Carolina #10
Maryland #2
NC State #11
Duke #1 61-65
2007 NC State #10 3-1 Duke #7
Virginia #2
Virginia Tech #3
North Carolina #1 80-89
1997 NC State #8 3-1 Florida State #7
Duke #1
Maryland #5
North Carolina #3 73-96
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