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Did the ACC Fail on College Basketball’s Biggest Stage?

Robert Scheer, IndyStar/USA Today Sports

Make sure to check out Fizz in Indy, our on-site coverage of the 2021 NCAA Tournament!

A week ago, the Fizz set out to give you, the reader, some last minute bracket advice. We covered the six other ACC teams in the tournament, and guessed analytically predicted to where each of them would fall out of the bracket. To be honest, it was a complete crapshoot, seeing as the conference’s tournament representatives had been inconsistent all year. We ended up only getting 2.5 out of 6 correct. (FSU is still in, and Virginia and Georgia Tech get a half point each… this will be explained later on).

However, on a national scale, the ACC failed. There were shoddy performances from the conference champion and one of the most notable brands in college basketball. Two of the top five teams in the conference blew leads down the stretch, and another scored one point in the final four minutes. Not exactly what one expects from a premier basketball league.

Let’s take a look back at last week’s predictions, and see where the Fizz failed the ACC and vice versa.

Virginia (#4 Seed, West Region)

Prediction: Sweet 16 (but keep them on upset alert…make at least one bracket where Ohio wins)

This is the first half-point. The caveat was clearly explained, and it made a lot of sense. Virginia lost to Ohio 62-58 in the Round of 64. The upset was in the cards. The Cavaliers led by one at half after the Bobcats closed a gap. UVA climbed out to a seven-point lead midway through the second half, then didn’t score a bucket for six straight minutes. The Cavs’ late game offense was stagnant, and nobody was in rhythm, which made sense for a team that had zero actual practices before game time. Sam Hauser finished 1-8 from behind the arc, and Virginia as a team was 8-31 from three.

Verdict: +.5 for the disclaimer, but a massive failure.

It’s a bad look when a top-four seed loses in the first round, regardless of who it is. It’s even worse when you’re the best team in the conference. Tony Bennett might’ve won a national championship, but it’s bookended by upsets.

Florida State (#4 seed, East Region)

Prediction: Sweet 16

Unlike Virginia, Florida State has handled its business as a four seed. The Seminoles made it past No. 13 seed UNC Greensboro despite going 0-9 from range and turning the ball over the typical 15 times. How does Balsa Koprivica, the 7-foot center, turn the ball over four times?! Regardless, a win’s a win in the Big Dance. FSU then dumped No. 5 seed Colorado 71-53 in typical fashion. Leonard Hamilton gave all 15 players some run, they were (mostly) efficient from the field, and they coughed it up 15 times.

Verdict: +.5 for the Fizz. TBD, as it hinges on the next game (hence the +.5), but it’s not a failure.

Florida State has succeeded. There’s no question about that. This is Hamilton’s third straight Sweet Sixteen. However, advancing to the Elite Eight (and busting the Fizz bracket) is going to be tough against a Michigan team coming off a convincing win over LSU.

North Carolina (#8 Seed, South Region)

Prediction: Round of 32

Here’s where it gets hard. UNC was playing great basketball heading into March Madness, and their dominant performance against Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament created a lot of hype. Roy Williams had never lost a Round of 64 game. However, everyone forgot that this was the same team that dropped a contest by double digits to unranked Marquette two weeks earlier.

North Carolina abandoned its principles once the rubber met the road, and let nine seed Wisconsin dominate them 85-62. The Tar Heel bigs didn’t get enough touches in the paint (Day’Ron Sharpe was just 2-4) and lost the rebounding battle 37-34. UNC’s freshman guards were a combined 6-19 from the field. The Badgers outscored the Heels 40-24 in the first half, and at that point, the game was over.

Verdict: Massive Failure. -1 for the Fizz.

For a team that had so much hype, talent and a legendary coach, this is a rough look. Maybe that’s why Walker Kessler is now in the transfer portal.

Virginia Tech (#10 seed, South Region)

Prediction: Round of 32

VT’s 75-70 loss to Florida was disappointing in the Round of 64, but it stands apart from the other ACC losses because it wasn’t defined by mistakes. Instead, it was a clutch three-ball from the Gators’ Tre Mann that sealed the deal in overtime. This was the best type of March Madness game, a game of runs. Both teams traded leads down the stretch until VT’s Nahiem Alleyne sunk a right wing three with seconds to go in regulation to tie the game at 64. The game could’ve gone a different way if Mann’s step-back was off the mark.

Verdict: -1 for the Fizz, but great basketball. Not a failure.

Virginia Tech has a lot to replace this coming offseason. Chances are coach Mike White hits the transfer portal hard.

Georgia Tech (#9 Seed, Midwest Region)

Prediction: Round of 32

GT was put in a really tough situation. A difficult draw against eight seed Loyola Chicago, and the loss of ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright put the Yellow Jackets’ backs against the wall. Tech fought valiantly, but lost 71-60. A seven-man rotation can’t work when four of those players have three or more fouls. The loss of Wright was an obvious hamper down low, as Josh Pastner’s team was out-rebounded by 13. The Jackets were unable to get stops when it mattered, as the Ramblers never were rattled by the on-ball pressure of Jose Alvarado.

Verdict: +.5 for the Fizz. Not a failure.

Clemson (#7 seed, Midwest Region)

Prediction: Round of 64

Well, we saw this one coming. The preview article clearly stated that Clemson couldn’t throw a stone in the ocean when it mattered, and that issue reared its head again in the Tigers’ first round matchup against No. 10 seed Rutgers. The game was a true rock fight, but the Scarlet Knights had multiple upperclassmen step up down the stretch. Clemson, on the other hand, scored one point in the final four minutes. The Tigers’ main offensive weakness, not having a quality guard, was exposed in crunch time. On the final possession, Aamir Sims traveled.

Verdict: +1 for the Fizz, but a failure

Clemson went to halftime with the lead. All the Tigers had to do was prove they could make a couple of big shots down the stretch. After a massive flop in the ACC Tournament, Brad Brownell’s team did the exact same thing a week and a half later.

Final Score: 2.5 out of 6 | 3 Failures

Overall, the ACC didn’t necessarily fail as a conference, but the teams with the highest expectations disappointed. Oh, and by the way, Duke and Louisville missed the tournament. Think about it this way… As Syracuse fans, we didn’t expect the Orange to make the Big Dance a month ago. Now, SU is out-performing any and every “tourney lock” that looked solid in the regular season.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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