Let’s not sugar coat things. Everywhere you look, every game you watch and every show you listen to is telling you the ACC is having a “down year.” Usually, this is a narrative formed after a couple of bad non-conference losses from the higher-powered teams, and it sticks around until March. It happened in 2021 with the Pac-12. The teams started slow and didn’t have a clear front-runner in conference play. Then in March, the “Conference of Champions” tore into the rest of the country, with three teams making the Elite Eight.
Now the West Coast and East Coast of NCAA basketball are two totally different beasts. Pac-12 games start at 11 PM ET, and most people have work in the morning. The Pac-12’s regional network is also harder to access than a needle in a haystack. On the other hand, the ACC and ACC Network are widely available around the country, regardless of timezone. People weren’t aware of the Pac-12’s ability because they weren’t tuned in. The same can’t be said for the ACC.
When it comes to ranking systems, there are three main ways to organize college basketball teams. The normal AP Poll, the NCAA’s NET Ranking System, and the bracketology projections. There is only one ACC team in the AP Top 25 right now, number two Duke. There isn’t even another team receiving votes. North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia and Syracuse are all waayy out of the picture. UNC was the last team to get a vote (seven of them to be exact) on December 20th. In fact, Miami and Louisville are at the top of the Atlantic Coast standings right now, as both are 4-0.
However, neither the ‘Canes nor Cards are anywhere close to sniffing the NET top 30 (what qualifies as a Quad One win at home). Coach K’s Blue Devils are the only team up in that echelon. There are five ACC teams out of the top 100 (SU is at 106), which is third-worst out of the Power Six (counting the Big East). Speaking of the Orange’s old home, the Big East has four teams in the top 30 (plus Providence at 34), and just three outside of the top 100 (the worst is Georgetown. Woof.). The SEC, now a rising basketball conference, has six teams in the top 30. The Big Ten has six, plus Indiana at 33. The Pac-12 has three. The entire Big 12 is in the top 100. As we go down the stretch of the college basketball season, most competitive conferences will have teams building tournament resumes. In the ACC, if a team doesn’t beat Duke or win the conference tournament, it’s going to be a tough ask for the committee to give them a favorable seed.
Speaking of the NCAA tournament, let’s check out what the bracketologists have projected for their early seedings. Right now, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi only has four ACC teams making the tournament. FOUR. Some are saying the West Coast Conference, aka the Gonzaga Invitational, might have four bids. CBS’s Jerry Palm has four as well. Both have three Pac-12 teams making the tournament. So right now, the ACC isn’t the worst major conference in college basketball, but there’s a lot of work to be done for anyone besides Duke to make a real push at the postseason.