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Not In The Cards?

Louisville hasn’t been the factor many expected since joining the ACC

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Louisville at Duke
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 18: Louisville guard Darius Perry (2) fights with Duke forward Javin DeLaurier (12) for a loose ball during the Duke Blue Devils game versus the Louisville Cardinals on January 18, 2020 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, NC.
Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Six seasons have come and gone since Louisville joined the ACC to replace Maryland, the Cardinals’ wealth-infused athletic program and overall competitive prosperity eclipsing its modest academic stature among league decision-makers.

The Cards’ basketball teams, men and women, were particularly estimable. In fact, two years before becoming the ACC’s 15th member, Louisville won the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. With Hall of Famer Rick Pitino on the bench, UL promised to be an immediate conference power, a contender for ACC supremacy.

Not quite what happened.

Louisville fared well enough, finishing in the ACC’s top four in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020. But in going through three coaches over a half-dozen years, the Cardinals did no better than tie for fourth-best in overall victories by an ACC club, matching Florida State behind Duke, Virginia and North Carolina, in that order.

No ACC program matched Duke’s total wins or exceeded its cumulative postseason achievements since Louisville’s arrival — an NCAA title in 2015 and ACC Tournament championships in 2017 and 2018.

Nor did anyone match Duke’s talent. Mike Krzyzewski’s clubs produced four of the last six ACC players of the year and five of six rookies of the year since ‘15.

The regular-season ACC standard-setter, meanwhile, was UVa, which won more league games than anyone else over the past six seasons, easily had the fewest losses, and boasted the best intra-league winning percentage (.800). The Cavaliers, like North Carolina, also won an NCAA title since Louisville came aboard, UVa in 2019 and UNC in 2017.

Louisville fit comfortably into the conference’s upper echelon, but has yet to threaten to scramble the status quo. Last season, as in 2017, it reached its ACC highwater mark by finishing tied for second during the regular season.

The Cards have only four more wins overall than earned by Notre Dame over the same period, although a dozen more in the league. And while Louisville has yet to advance beyond the opening round of the ACC Tournament (admittedly an impossibility this past March), the Fighting Irish, a 2014 league arrival, won the ACC title in 2015 and reached the tournament final in 2017.

At the other end of the won-lost continuum, since 2015 Big East exile Boston College, a 2006 ACC entrant, had the fewest wins, overall and in league play. The Eagles concommitantly had the most losses and the most anemic conference winning percentage (.227) over the past six seasons.

BC did manage seven ACC victories last year, matching 2018 for the most under Jim Christian.

Tied for the second-fewest league victories (five per year) were Wake Forest and Pitt, the Panthers yet another Big East breakaway program.

Perhaps unexpectedly, considering its overall wins and low profile, Clemson actually showed better for the six most recent years of ACC play than either NC State or Virginia Tech.

ACC Regular-Season Records Since Inclusion of Louisville, 2015
(ACC Tournament Not Included In ACC Totals)
W All Gs School ACC W ACC L W Pct.
174 Duke 79 31 .718
171 Virginia 88 22 .800
161 North Carolina 72 38 .655
141 Louisville 70 40 .636
141 Florida State 66 44 .600
137 Notre Dame 58 52 .527
124 Miami 56 54 .509
121 Syracuse 56 54 .509
118 NC State 49 61 .445
116 Virginia Tech 51 59 .463
111 Clemson 53 57 .477
98 Georgia Tech 42 68 .382
94 Pittsburgh 30 80 .273
81 Wake Forest 30 80 .273
75 Boston College 25 85 .227