This might be an especially good year for ACC teams to prosper in the NCAA tournament.
To be fair, it’s not as if the league as an entity needs to prove itself. Not after producing three No. 1 seeds in 2019 and three of the last five national champions from three different schools. Not if we take the long view, after the ACC produced 15 NCAA champs, 13 in the most recent 39 seasons.
Not with the majority of ACC members earning bids twice in the last four seasons in which the NCAA tournament was held.
Not after producing 34 Final Four entrants in the last 39 years.
Not after having at least a pair of teams earn top four seeds in every NCAA tournament, including this one, since seeding began in 1979, a season prior to the founding of the old Big East and the addition of Georgia Tech to the ACC.
Nor would we argue that NCAA achievement necessarily validates league strength or ratifies weakness.
The ACC has some ground to make up in popular estimation. As we noted in an earlier chart, the ACC hardly cracked the Top 10 in this season’s regular-season AP polls, the longest-standing measure of team strength available.
League teams were shut out of the Top 10 for the majority of the ’21 season, longer than in any year since 1960. That was not so coincidentally the last time neither Duke nor UNC were ranked when they met toward the end of the ACC regular season.
This go-round Georgia Tech, the ACC Tournament winner, is seeded a disrespectful 9th, worst for the league champion since NC State was slotted at No. 11 in 1987.
This is the first NCAA tournament since 2013 in which the ACC has no top seed, the first without one of the top two seeds since 1990.
The ACC has endured greater prolonged periods of low regard, most recently from 2011 to 2014, the longest stretch in the seeding era when it failed to place a team in the Final Four. From 2012 through 2014 the ACC went 6-5, 6-5 and 6-6 in NCAA competition.
This March, leagues like the Big 10 crowd the top of the polls and command top seeds, while ACC clubs are afterthoughts in the national conversation about ’21 NCAA title favorites. Five of the ACC’s 7 NCAA entrants this year are seeded seventh or lower; Florida State and Virginia are fourth seeds.
We’ll see what the ACC can do, given that most of its teams seem less finished products ready for championship competition than works in progress bristling with rough edges and unfinished connections.
That state of affairs certainly typified Duke. Plagued by inconsistency during the regular season, then hit with COVID just as they seemed to jell during the ACC Tournament, the Blue Devils saw their streak of consecutive NCAA appearances end at 24 dating to 1996. That was the second-longest such run in ACC history, after UNC’s 27 straight from 1975 through 2001.
To replicate Duke’s 24-year NCAA streak, Mike Krzyzewski would need to coach – and win — until he was 98.
North Carolina now has the ACC’s most enduring run of NCAA appearances with 10; the Tar Heel streak would have ended with last year’s losing record but the tournament was canceled.
Virginia with seven straight visits has the league’s second-longest current run, followed by Florida State and Virginia Tech with four each.
|WHEN WE THINK IT MATTERS MOST
ACC Teams In NCAA Tournament, Annually Since Seeding Began
(Asterisk Indicates Won Title, Results as ACC Members Only)
|Year||In||Total||% In||Top 4
|2021||7||15||46.7||2 (both 4)||TBD|
|2020||The Year The Music Died|