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The ACC Is Getting No Top 25 Respect

And some conference teams deserve more than they’re getting

NC State v Duke
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 15: Trevor Keels #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts following a three-point basket against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 88-73.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

There’s a good argument to be made that no conference has taken a harder hit from Covid-19 than the ACC. But this is getting ridiculous, and no one is making a peep.

The COVID hit referred to here is a competitive measure, not a matter of health. As far as we know no one active in the ACC since 2020 has died from the virus, or reported long-lasting adverse effects.

But as a group of teams, the ACC was hit with COVID just as the league began a slide in popular estimation and oncourt effectiveness.

There are all sorts of ways to measure such things, from sophisticated analytics to NCAA success to formulaic power ratings to stature in the polls. By any measure 2020-21 was a downer for the ACC, with 2021-22 a potential continuation of that status.

Already this has been a sour season for a conference that, prior to last decade’s expansion/dilution, consistently was the nation’s best.

The ACC’s popular standing changed quickly. This is best reflected in national polls, a subjective realm where voters can’t possibly see all the teams they rate.

On the heels of a superb 2019 season in which it finished with four teams in the Associated Press top 10, three of the four No.1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, four squads advancing to the Sweet 16, and Virginia emerging as the national champions, the league had another quartet of teams among the AP’s top 16 in 2020.

But COVID shut down the season before the NCAA’s postseason proving ground opened for business.

Then came 2020-21.

The league had another seven teams in the NCAA tournament, but only two got as far as the Sweet 16 and no farther.

For the first time since seeding was instituted in 1979, no ACC team was deemed sufficiently formidable to earn a seed higher than fourth in the 2021 NCAAs. Georgia Tech, with a 17-8 record entering the NCAAs, garnered so little respect as the ACC Tournament champion it got a second-tier, No. 9 seed. And was immediately eliminated.

For only the third time in league history, no ACC squad finished in the AP top 10. A mere three finished in the top 25. Equally problematic Duke, the league’s flagship program, failed to make the NCAAs for the first time since 1995.

This year the ACC remains in a slump on the court and in perception. Early on it dropped its challenge series with the Big 10 for the third straight year and 8th time in the past 13 seasons, with three ties.

The tarnishment of the ACC’s reputation has most assuredly been reflected in the polls where for nine consecutive weeks and counting — the longest span in the league’s 68-year history — the Blue Devils were alone in the top 20.

As a further sign of disrespect for the ACC this season, not even beating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium lifted Miami, then 13-3, higher than 28th in the AP poll voting through mid-January. A third of the teams that got more votes than the Hurricanes had as many, or more, defeats.

In a later, Jan. 17 poll, Duke ranked sixth. Miami lost by a point at Florida State and dropped in regard, falling to 30th in voting for the top 25 with 21 votes. Ridiculous.

As proof of the Hurricanes’ mettle, they then roasted a streaking UNC the same night FSU beat Duke in overtime at Tallahassee.

POLL DANCING
ACC Men's Teams In Final AP Top 20, Since Latest League Expansion
(2022 Through Poll Of Jan. 17)
Season Top 10 ACC In AP Top 20
2022 1 Duke 6
2021 0 FSU 14, Virginia 15
2020 1 FSU 4, Duke 11, Louisville 14, Virginia16
2019 4 Duke 1; Virginia 2, UNC 3; FSU 10, Va Tech 16
2018 3 Virginia 1, Duke 9, UNC 10, Clemson 20
2017 3 UNC 6, Duke 7, Louisville 10, Notre Dame 14, FSU 16
2016 3 UNC 3, Virginia 4, Miami 10, Louisville 16, Duke 19
2015 3 Duke 4, Virginia 6, Notre Dame 8, UNC 15, Louisville 17
2014 2 Virginia 3, Duke 8, Syracuse 14, UNC 19