A season like the current campaign was not ever supposed to happen. The ACC was supposed to be dominant on an annual basis. Adding schools like Louisville, Syracuse, Miami, Boston College, Pitt, and Notre Dame were going to make the ACC a powerhouse.
Early on, the additions led to success within the conference. It produced the national champion in 2015, 2017 and 2019. In 2018, the league sent nine teams to the NCAA Tournament and four of them reached the Sweet 16.
Those are now considered the ‘good ole days’.
Evidence of this was on display last weekend when the NCAA Tournament selection committee unveiled it’s top-16 rankings. Only one ACC program, Virginia, was included in the top-16 meaning the conference has only one school that would be seeded fourth or better within the regions.
From what I have seen of late, only two other schools, Florida State and Virginia Tech, look capable of reaching the sweet 16.
Duke needs to win the ACC Tournament to avoid missing March Madness for the first time in 26 years. North Carolina is a bubble team one year after compiling its first losing record in 18 seasons. Miami is looking at its third straight losing season. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are average at best.
I am not sure if this is an anomaly either. Actually, it could be the start of a trend as this is the second consecutive season the league has struggled.
Last year’s final Associated Press top 25 featured just three ACC teams; Duke, Florida State and Virginia, before the tournament was canceled. Most projections had just four ACC schools making the NCAA Tourney.
There are a number of reasons for the drop-off. The newcomers are struggling and the programs on Tobacco Road are digressing of late.
I hesitate in throwing another reason out there, but I will. The head coaches within the league are getting older. Could be a coincidence but maybe not. Even the most successful coaches age and their prowess declines a bit. Roy Williams is 70. Jim Boeheim is 75. Jim Larranaga is 71. Mike Krzyzewski is 74.
Conversely, it would be unwise to think Duke and North Carolina will struggle again next year. Both programs will add elite talent annually. The question comes down to how the talent meshes again. Reportedly, Florida State and Louisville have great classes coming in. Virginia, of late, has been consistent year after year.
But for the second straight season, the ACC is underperforming. It is not even close to the super conference that was predicted a decade or so ago. Fans hope it is just a blip in the radar and not a trend.