Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sweet 16 Sour for ACC

For most of the season many sports commentators and coaches from the ACC were touting the league's strength and superiority in college basketball. It may still be true that, top to bottom, the ACC was the most balanced and, in that sense, strongest conference in the nation. It is also apparent that the league had a bunch of talented but flawed teams that had little chance for a deep run in the NCAA tournament. I felt going into the tournament that only North Carolina had a decent chance to make a run to the Final Four out of the seven ACC teams that made the NCAA tournament. Turns out they were the only team that was able to even make the Sweet Sixteen and, for the first time since 1979, only one ACC team was able to make it out of the first weekend. This was the first time ever since the tournament expanded to its current configuration in 1985 that the ACC only had a single representative in the regional semifinal.

So much for expansion helping ACC basketball. More weak teams in the NCAA tournament that have little chance to do much once they get there isn't what made the ACC the preeminent basketball power in college basketball. When was the last time that a ACC regular season champion didn't make it past the round of 32? That would be 2003, widely regarded as one of the weakest years in recent memory for the ACC, when Wake Forest was the regular season champions but lost to 10 seed Auburn in the second round.

There has been some suggestion that the ACC should expand the regular season to 18 games, which is at least a start in the right direction, but that won't cure the flaw in league play with the unbalanced schedule in effect. There isn't any total cure for this problem. The league expanded and this is what fans are stuck with now. The ACC is just like any other mega conference in college sports these days as this year's NCAA tournament has demonstrated. The ACC may not have been overrated in the technical sense. The entire field of college basketball has become more dispersed in talent and mediocre parity has ruled the sport the last few seasons. It explains how talented but fundamentally flawed teams like Connecticut and Duke from last season and virtually every one seed this season are viewed as powerhouse teams. The ACC may just have been the best conference, by a small margin, in collection of weak conferences.


Weasel said...

The ACC is not the mighty conference it used to be. The SEC and PAC 10 were better this year and there is no reason to think that will change soon. The main reason for this is the decline of traditional ACC powers like Duke, MD, GT and WF. In most years the ACC had two legitimate national championship contenders. Not this year and some would argue UNC doesn't even qualify. I guess we'll see. The 2007 UNC team was by far the most talented in the conference, but it would be lucky to finish third or fourth if it had to compete against past ACC clubs.

umdalum06 said...

I agree with your thoughts. I also think that a lot of the teams that wound up at the top of the ACC were maybe playing above their heads, and once ACC play began, it became hard to establish whether it was a strong conference or just one with a lot of parity. The middle of the pack (Va Tech, UMD, Ga Tech, FSU, Clemson) were very on and off, winning tough games, then losing easy ones. I think Virginia, if Singletary doesn't leave, could be tough next year. His play reminds me a lot of Chris Paul, and I think Sean will have a huge future in the NBA. I know it's not Maryland related, but what are your thoughts on McRoberts leaving early? Surprised me a bit, and I think he may wind up regretting it. I think he could use some more time in college to shore up his post game, and maybe find an outside shot in the 15-footer range. I find it hard to believe he will be successful in posting up in the NBA. Also, any thoughts on DJ's chances in the NBA draft?