The deeper the pile, the tougher to dig your way out from the bottom. That’s always seemed a logical consequence of expanding to a 15-school league with a single basketball division.
ACC football’s bifurcated paths to first place make it easier for teams to insinuate their way to the top, if only for a year or two, their ascent burnished by the chimera of bowl participation in a system where every breakeven record is rewarded.
In basketball the danger is that, once fallen, a program is more likely to stay down for an extended period in a larger conference. The addition of more Hall of Fame coaches, bringing the ACC’s active total to four, only increased the degree of difficulty.
Funny how that’s gone. By next season Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim figures to be the only active Hall coach left in the ACC. And his program, much like Notre Dame, Pitt, and BC, is hardly as powerful as it was upon arrival in the league.
Once fallen, the Eagles and Panthers - stripped of proven, long-term leaders - have yet to regain their footing. Those programs fell so far they posted winless ACC records in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Since BC entered the league in 2005-06 and reached the ACC Tournament championship game it’s finished on the positive side of the ledger just 5 times in 16 seasons. Once stuck near the bottom, the Eagles have endured nine losing efforts in their last 10.
Prospects haven’t been much brighter at Pitt, which has endured five straight losing seasons since the 2016 departure of Jamie Dixon.
Happily, two of the eclipsed have rallied this season.
Miami, which won the 2013 ACC regular season and tournament titles and enjoyed eight 20-win seasons from 2010 through 2018, fell on hard times the last three years. The ’21 squad won fewer games (10) than any Canes since 1994, when Leonard Hamilton was the coach and the team went 7-20.
But this year Jim Larranaga’s Hurricanes have bounced back with a vengeance. When Miami beat an unaccustomedly potent Wake squad behind 25 points from junior Isaiah Wong on New Year’s Day, it notched its seventh straight win and 11th overall, one more than in all of 2021. That was followed by an eighth straight win with a rally from 18 points down against Syracuse.
Meanwhile Wake’s loss at Coral Gables, in which the teams combined for 48 3-point attempts, was quickly followed by a cathartic thrashing of Florida State. That gave the Demon Deacons an even dozen victories (against three losses), doubling last season’s total in Steve Forbes’ debut as head coach at Winston-Salem and drawing them closer to ending a four-year losing skid.
Among the other teams looking to end an extended run of losing seasons, the prospects for recovery are shakier at BC and Pitt. Their slumps are among the deepest since Florida State joined the ACC three decades ago, for the 1991-92 season.
|ESCAPING THE PILE
Teams In ACC With At Least 3 Straight Losing Seasons, Last 30 Years
(Overall Record, NCAA Forfeits Not Included, * Indicates Ongoing)
|L Row||School||Years||Coaches Involved|
|6||Boston College||2012-17||Skinner, Dohanue|
|5||Florida State||1999-03||S. Robinson, Hamilton|
|5||NC State||1992-96||L. Robinson|
|4*||Wake Forest||2018-21||Manning, Forbes|
|4||Virginia Tech||2012-15||Greenberg, Johnson|
|3*||Boston College||2019-21||Donahue, Christian|