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Losing In The ACC Has Gotten Easier Since Expansion

The ACC is still intensely competitive but there are stratas now and moving up is a lot harder than it used to be.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Boston College
 Feb 26, 2020; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles head coach Jim Christian during the second half against Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Conte Forum. 
Adam Richins-USA TODAY Sports

Losing has grown more common lately, though there’s no sign it’s become more popular.

Last year a third of the ACC’s membership (.333 percent) finished with losing records. In 2019 it was 6 of 15 teams (.400). Neither season was perceived as a vintage effort for the ACC.

Seven ACC members had losing records in the past two years.

In fact, since the most recent league expansion in 2014 and 2015, just six ACC programs (.400) avoided a losing season – Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, Syracuse and Virginia.

That’s right – Clemson.

Last season’s most stunning plummet from the stratosphere of success was of course endured by North Carolina. UNC finished 14-19, and at 6-14 tied for 13th in the ACC, after going 29-7, 16-2 in the league, in 2019.

Coach Roy Williams’ worst stumble previously at Chapel Hill came in 2010 when, as in 2020, the Tar Heels had to replace a corps of top scorers who left early for the pros, survive a rash of injuries, and struggle to find and keep a gifted playmaker to run the offense. The ’10 team was 5-11 in the ACC, 20-17 overall.

Since the advent of the ACC, UNC suffered losing records fewer times than any other program – in 1955, 1962, 2002 and 2020 – under Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, Matt Doherty and Williams, respectively.

Other negative landmarks worth mentioning:

Since Al Skinner, the coach with the most wins in Boston College history (247 in 13 seasons), was forced out in 2010, the Eagles have posted eight losing seasons in the last 10. Skinner’s ouster appeared to be a bad move at the time, and hasn’t looked better since.

Clemson’s seventh straight winning season (16-15) left Brad Brownell’s teams one shy of the best such run ever at the school, from 1974-81 under admitted cheater Tates Locke and the ACC’s second Bill Foster (following Duke’s coach of the same name).

Leonard Hamilton’s only losing marks at Tallahassee came in two of his first three years on the job, in 2003 and 2005.

Georgia Tech, a surprising fifth-place finisher in 2020, has had as many winning as losing seasons since 1995 — 13 each. Eight of the last 13 were losing efforts.

Jim Larranaga’s only losing records in nine seasons at Miami came in the last two years.

Both of Mike Brey’s losing marks in his first 20 years at Notre Dame have come since joining the ACC in 2014.

Pitt’s run of four straight losing seasons is the longest ongoing streak in the league.

Syracuse has never had a losing record on the court during Jim Boeheim’s 44 years as head coach. But NCAA-imposed forfeits technically cost the Orange a winning edge in 2006, 2007 and 2012. The Cuse last had a real losing record in 1969, Roy Danforth’s first year as coach.

Virginia Tech had four straight losing seasons under three coaches from 2012 through 2015.

Wake Forest and BC each suffered eight losing seasons over the past decade.

(Asterisk Indicates Prior Losing Record Was Under Same Coach, Syracuse Records Reflect Forfeits
Levied By NCAA For Rule Violations)
School Last L Record Coach Prior L
Boston College 2020 13-19 J. Christian 2019*
Clemson 2013 13-18 B. Brownell 2004
Duke 1995 13-18 M. Krzyzewski 1983*
Florida State 2005 12-19 L. Hamilton 2003*
Georgia Tech 2019 14-18 J. Pastner 2018*
Louisville 2001 12-19 D. Crum 1998*
Miami 2020 15-16 J. Larranaga 2019*
North Carolina 2020 14-19 R. Wiliams 2002
NC State 2017 15-17 M. Gottfried 2016*
Notre Dame 2019 14-19 M. Brey 2014*
Pittsburgh 2020 16-17 J. Capel 2019*
Syracuse# 2012 0-3 J. Boeheim 2007*
Virginia 2010 15-16 T. Bennett 2009
Virginia Tech 2015 11-22 B. Williams 2014
Wake Forest 2020 13-18 D. Manning 2019*
# On the court, last losing mark was 9-16 in 1969 season.