clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Winning And Losing The ACC Tournament

It’s not so easy for some teams. In fact, it’s been just about impossible.

ACC Basketball Tournament - Championship
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 16: The Duke Blue Devils pose with the ACC Championship trophy after defeating the Florida State Seminoles 73-63 in the championship game of the 2019 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 16, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

So when is a climax not a climax?

When it’s the ACC Tournament.

Certainly it’s a drop-dead moment for the majority of ACC teams, for whom a trip to the final or ultimate victory is their only avenue to the glories of the NCAAs. A few will happily burnish their resumes and settle for the NIT.

Just to be clear, the ACC Tournament was from its outset the preferred mechanism for determining a champion. That route was favored by the Old Gray Fox, NC State coach Everett Case, who was convinced basketball is ultimately a tournament sports.

But it wasn’t Case’s advocacy that launched what for years was a widely derided league tournament on the eve of the NCAAs.

The new ACC adopted a postseason league tournament not because it was championed by Case, who won the first three, or because it was necessary to sort the contenders from the pretenders, as was the case when the bulk of the original ACC left the 17-member Southern Conference.

Rather, the ACC inaugurated a tournament to cap the conference season for the same reason former critics ultimately rushed to embrace their own version of the event: money.

The infant ACC seceded with empty coffers and needed a reliable source of revenue. The ACC Tournament proved the answer, not only thanks to ticket sales and TV rights fees but, over time, contributions to school booster clubs to gain access to increasingly coveted tickets.

From 1965 through 2007 every session was a sellout, including those years when the tournament bounced to the D.C. area, Atlanta and even Tampa. The 2001 edition at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, since demolished, set NCAA attendance records for a league tournament, averaging 36,505 and attracting 182,525 fans overall. Duke flattened Matt Doherty’s first UNC team by 26 in the final despite the Tar Heels’ half-hearted attempt to enforce a slowdown.

This will be the third time the ACC Tournament is played at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The first, in 2017, saw Duke win four games to capture the title, the most victories ever by an ACC champion. The league returned to Barclays in 2018 to satisfy its latest New York-centric Big East refugees and Virginia won.

Barclays failed to sell out in either year, the crowds averaging about 1,200 and 900, respectively, short of capacity (17,732).

The top six seeds in 2022 each won at least one ACC Tournament title.

No. 7 is Virginia Tech. Every team from No. 9 (Syracuse) through 13 (BC) has yet to capture a championship.

In all, 40 percent of ACC schools (6 of 15), including founding member Clemson, have failed to win the conference tournament.

Among 21st-century additions to the ACC, only Miami (2013) under Jim Larranaga and Notre Dame (2015) directed by Mike Brey won a tournament. Both are still on the job.

The Orange have never lasted beyond the quarterfinals in seven previous tries, and didn’t participate in 2015 due to NCAA probation. This year’s 11th seed, the Louisville Cardinals, have never lasted beyond the quarterfinal and didn’t participate in 2016 due to NCAA troubles.

The number 12 Panthers reached a single semifinal (2014, the year they entered the ACC). Boston College, seeded 13th, reached the final in 2005, losing to Duke.

The 10th-seeded Clemson Tigers have been to the final twice in 67 years (1962 and 2008) only to fall short of a championship.

How Every ACC Member Fared in League Tournament
(* Indicates No Longer ACC Member)
School ACC Titles Year Won Runnerup
Boston College 2006 0 NA 1 (2006)
Clemson 1954 0 NA 2 (1962, 2008)
Duke 1954 21 2019 12
Florida State 1992 1 2012 3 (2009,19,21)
Georgia Tech 1980 4 2021 4 (1986,96,05,10)
Louisville 2015 0 NA 0
Maryland* 1954-14 3 2004 6
Miami 2005 1 2013 0
North Carolina 1954 18 2016 17
NC State 1954 10 1987 7
Notre Dame 2014 1 2015 1 (2017)
Pittsburgh 2014 0 NA 0
South Carolina* 1954-71 1 1971 3 (1957,70)
Syracuse 2014 0 NA 0
Virginia 1954 3 2018 6
Virginia Tech 2005 0 NA 0
Wake Forest 1954 4 1996 6