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Top Five ACC Finishes

NC State hasn’t done it much lately but may get there this year

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Virginia
Jan 20, 2020; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack players celebrate after the final horn against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena. 
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When NC State surprised Virginia at Charlottesville the other night, Kevin Keatts’ squad served notice it was a contender for a place in the ACC’s front rank. Not only was it the first time in the last nine tries the Wolfpack emerged victorious from a meeting with powerful UVa, it was their first successful visit to John Paul Jones Arena since the on-campus facility opened during the 2007 season.

Fact is, the Pack’s emergence (14-5, 5-3) has been quiet to this point, overshadowed by its soft nonconference schedule as well as the struggles of the league’s uber-powers.

UNC hovers around .500 later in the season than at any point during Roy Williams’ 17-year tenure. Virginia is vulnerable, with the same overall record as Pitt after 18 games. Duke already has lost twice at Cameron Indoor Stadium (vs. Stephen F. Austin and Louisville); it only lost more times at home in four of the last 24 seasons.

Meanwhile Florida State, accustomed to good starts, is off to the races again, and Virginia Tech shows surprising prowess under new coach Mike Young.

NC State, despite its glorious past, hasn’t been much of a factor in the regular-season race since 1989 under Jim Valvano, when it finished first only to be eliminated in its ACC Tournament opener by the bottom seed.

Since then, over 30 seasons, while coaches (5), players, and fellow league members came and went, the Wolfpack finished among the top five ACC teams just nine times (a .300 success rate).

With the 2020 season a bit more than half complete, Keatts has a chance to bring his team home in the upper third of the league, achieved at Raleigh only four times in the past 15 years.

Also worth mentioning:

  • Florida State has yet to finish first during an ACC regular season.
  • Virginia and Wake were top-five finishers in more than half the seasons since 1990. But the Demon Deacons have done so just twice over the past 15 years and not once since Dino Gaudio, currently a Louisville assistant, was dumped in 2010.
  • Not surprisingly, Duke and UNC finished in the top five a combined 55 of 60 possible times (.917) since 1990.
  • Georgia Tech hasn’t made the top third in the regular-season standings since 2006, three coaches ago.
Top-Five Finishes In ACC Since 1990
(Ties Included, FSU Joined In 1992)
School Top 5/Recent Highest
Clemson 8 (2018) (1) 1990
Duke 28 (2019) (1) 1991, 1992, 1994,1997,1998,1999,2000, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010
Florida State 10 (2019) (2) 1992, 1993, 2017
Georgia Tech 12 (2006) (1) 1996
No. Carolina 27 (2019) (1) 1993,1995,2001, 2005,2007,2008,2009,2011, 2012,2016, 2017, 2019
NC State 10 (2017) (2) 2004
Virginia 18 (2019) (1) 1995, 2007, 2014, 2015, 2018,2019
Wake Forest 16 (2010) (1) 1995, 2003