ACC Basketball Power Rankings – February 11, 2015


Typically, this space is used for a snarky, joke-filled look at the teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. This week, I wanted something slightly different. There have been many tributes over the past three days to the great Dean Smith, former North Carolina head coach. I won’t pretend this will be the best or most poignant of them. However, most of them have deservedly focused on what an incredible human being he was.

While his deeds off the court far outweighed (and outperformed) his work on the court … he did win 879 games. Some of those were really, really impressive. Here’s a look at 14 of those wins, one for each of the other schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

1 – Virginia – February 10, 1983; North Carolina 64, Virginia 63: The Cavaliers held a 16 point lead with 8:43 remaining, but UNC overcame that deficit and a Ralph Sampson double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) to take the win on a Michael Jordan steal and dunk with 48 seconds remaining.

2 – Duke – March 2, 1974; North Carolina 96, Duke 92: By now, anyone who has grown up in North Carolina has heard about the “8 points in 17 seconds game.” If you somehow haven’t, words don’t do it justice and you wouldn’t believe it without video evidence.

3 – Notre Dame – January 5, 1963; North Carolina 76, Notre Dame 68: Billy Cunningham’s 40-foot buzzer beater negated a Jay Miller tip-in and forced overtime in the old Notre Dame Fieldhouse. The Tar Heels would win in overtime, giving them a 7-1 start to Dean Smith’s second season at North Carolina.

4 – Louisville – March 23, 1997; North Carolina 97, Louisville 74: In what proved to be Dean Smith’s 879th and final head coaching victory, the Heels jumped out to a 54-33 halftime lead to earn a spot in that year’s Final Four.

5 – North Carolina – Not applicable. While Smith did briefly coach baseball and golf at the Air Force Academy, the entirety of his college basketball head coaching career took place at North Carolina.

6 – Florida State – January 27, 1993; North Carolina 82, Florida State 77: Trailing by 21 with less than 12 minutes remaining and by 19 with nine minutes left to play, UNC outscored the Seminoles 28-4 to steal a victory and end a five-game winning streak for FSU.

7 – NC State – March 8, 1975; North Carolina 70, NC State 66: Behind 24 points from freshman point guard Phil Ford, the Tar Heels won the 1975 ACC Tournament Championship. The victory began a streak of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under Dean Smith and ended the stellar career of Wolfpack great David Thompson

8 – Clemson – March 7, 1975; North Carolina 76, NC State 71: One day before that 1975 ACC title game, UNC needed overtime to defeat the Clemson Tigers. Ford scored 29 points in the semifinal contest, another reason why he became the first freshman to win ACC Tournament MVP honors that March in Greensboro.

9 – Pittsburgh – March 15, 1981; North Carolina 74, Pittsburgh 57: The Tar Heels began their run to a third national championship appearance under Dean Smith with a convincing victory over the Panthers in El Paso, Texas.

10 – Miami – December 6, 1986; North Carolina 122, Miami 77: This blowout is still noted for the second-greatest point total for a UNC team in the Smith Center, bettered only by a 129 point outing against VMI in 1994. The Tar Heels scored nearly as many points in the first half (72) as the Hurricanes did in the entire game.

11 – Syracuse – November 21, 1987; North Carolina 96, Syracuse 93: Avenging a loss to the Orangemen in the 1987 NCAA Tournament’s East Regional final, #3 North Carolina opened the 1987 season with an overtime victory against top-ranked Syracuse in the Hall of Fame Game in Springfield, Massachusetts.

12 – Virginia Tech – February 3, 1979; North Carolina 92, Virginia Tech 80: The North-South Doubleheader in Charlotte lost some of its luster when Clemson and South Carolina pulled out of the annual four-team event. However, UNC and the Hokies put on an overtime thriller in the 1989 iteration of the event, with the Heels winning in the extra period to bounce back from a loss to Furman the day prior.

13 – Boston College – March 18, 1967; North Carolina 96, Boston College 80: Behind 31 points from Bobby Lewis, the Tar Heels advanced to the 1967 Final Four. This marked Smith’s first trip to the final weekend of the NCAA Tournament, a voyage he would make 10 more times in his career.

14 – Wake Forest – February 8, 1992; North Carolina 80, Wake Forest 78: While the comeback against Florida State a year later has more notoriety, this was actually the greatest come-from-behind win in school history. UNC erased a 22-point deficit to knock off the Demon Deacons in the Smith Center.

15 – Georgia Tech – February 4, 1986; North Carolina 78, Georgia Tech 77: With the Tar Heels and the Yellow Jackets ranked first and second in the nation, respectively, the ACC foes put on a classic in The Omni. Ultimately, Brad Daugherty’s 22 points led the Heels to an overtime victory.

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