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Calling It Early...And Getting It Wrong

People have had a tough time predicting ACC Basketball of a while now

NCAA Basketball: North Florida at Miami-Florida
 Nov 29, 2020; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; A general view of the ACC conference logo on the court prior to the game between the Miami Hurricanes and the North Florida Ospreys at Watsco Center. 
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Not to disparage the perspicacity of the media horde, but you could say the ACC press and PR corps is barely more likely to pick the correct first-place finisher on the eve of the season than to miss.

Actually, go ahead and say it: in 11 of 22 seasons in this century prior to this one, media voters successfully forecast which team would finish first during the regular season. That means 11 of 22 times they did not. That’s essentially a coin flip, a wash.

This year’s selection, North Carolina, was picked No.1 for the first time since 2016. The Tar Heels return four starters, rare depth of experience in this or any season.

Given their perennial prowess and the front-running nature of some mediaites, Duke and UNC were picked first in 19 of the last 22 seasons (.864 percent).

Duke was expected to top the ACC 13 times over that span (.591). The Blue Devils wound up finishing first in five of those seasons, most recently in 2022. They also won the ACC tournament 10 times in the last 22 years, despite finishing as low as fifth during the regular season (2017).

Media members went with North Carolina as the regular-season frontrunner seven times, counting 2022-23.

Well called. The Tar Heels finished first the six times predicted so far. In half of those years they also won the ACC Tournament. That means easily the safest picks are the pair of blue boys, who combined to lead the regular-season pack 11 times and captured the tournament title with similar efficiency. If only Powerball winners were as easy to foresee.

Virginia, NC State and Wake were picked first once each in this century – the Cavs for the 2021 season, the Wolfpack in 2013 and the Demon Deacons in 2005. None fulfilled the media’s forecast.

That means since 2001 nine of 15 teams have yet to spark a majority media opinion that they’ll lead the regular-season race. Looked at another way, no school that joined the ACC this century has impressed sufficiently to merit front-running status in preseason.

How Media Preseason Picks Turned Out, 21st Century ccc
Year Picked First Actual Finish Tourn Champ (Preseason)
2023 North Carolina NA NA
2022 Duke first Virginia Tech (5)
2021 Virginia first Georgia Tech (9)
2020 Florida State fifth Florida State (5)
2019 Duke third Duke
2018 Duke second Virginia (6)
2017 Duke fifth North Carolina (2)
2016 North Carolina first North Carolina
2015 Duke second Notre Dame (7)
2014 Duke third Virginia (4)
2013 NC State fourth Miami (5)
2012 North Carolina first Florida State (3)
2011 North Carolina first Duke (2)
2010 Duke first Duke
2009 North Carolina first Duke (2)
2008 North Carolina first North Carolina
2007 North Carolina first North Carolina
2006 Duke first Duke
2005 Wake Forest second Duke (4)
2004 Duke first Maryland (6)
2003 Duke second Wake Forest (6)
2002 Duke second Duke (2)
2001 Duke first Duke