I sat down to preview this week’s ACC Tournament. I took a minute to think back to past columns I wrote about the tourney. It was then that it hit me that the ACC has undergone a dramatic transformation over recent years. It was just a few years ago that Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim were the faces of the conference.

When the 2024 ACC men’s basketball tournament is held in Washington DC this week, the aforementioned Hall of Famers will be conspicuously absent following their recent retirements. The league instead has been infused with younger coaches, by decades in a few instances.

I guess that Virginia’s Tony Bennett is now the most celebrated coach at the top of that list. His resume is solid with the 2019 national championship, six ACC regular season titles and two conference tournament championships. In his 15th season with the Cavaliers, Bennett is the only national title winner participating in this season’s ACC tournament.

When Bennett led the Cavaliers to the ACC tournament final in 2016, losing to the Tar Heels, three of his ACC peers had claimed at least one NCAA title. Williams, who won three, retired in 2021; Krzyzewski, who won five, retired in 2022; and Boeheim, who won one, departed in 2023.

The replacement coaches are doing okay, but it is a different look at the ACC Tournament. The careers of Hubert Davis at UNC and Jon Scheyer at Duke are on a nice trajectory so far. North Carolina (25-6, 17-3) and Duke (24-7, 15-5) arrive in DC as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, with notable separation from the rest of the field based on the metrics the NCAA tournament selection committee considers in awarding at-large berths.

Both programs are the only ACC schools in the top 10 of the NCAA’s NET rankings. The next closest is sixth-seeded Clemson at 26. No. 5 seed Wake Forest (38) and fourth-seeded Pittsburgh (44) are the only other ACC schools inside the top 50 of the NET. Virginia is the 51st ranked squad. The NET ranking includes components such as winning percentage, margin of victory, game location and net offensive and defensive efficiency.

Okay, back to the tournament. Present day. I believe it is North Carolina’s to lose. The eye test last week told me that they are better than Duke. But the unexpected seems to happen more often than not at what was once considered the best conference tournament in the country. Time has passed and the ACC can no longer make that claim.