With the ACC getting six teams into the Sweet 16, the conference will be well represented this weekend. The ACC had two number 1 seeds, UNC and Virginia and they are both favorites to make the Final 4 and possibly win a national title.
Fans of each ACC school will obviously say my school needs a Final Four berth most, as they should. From an outsiders perspective I think Virginia and UNC are a bit unique from the other ACC schools, because they are number 1 seeds.
Duke just won a national title last year. Another Final Four berth is just icing on the cake. Notre Dame probably doesn’t play defense well enough to be a serious national title contender. Syracuse has already surpassed expectations by reaching the Sweet 16. Miami is good enough to reach the Final 4, but I’m not sure I’d put the Hurricanes there with UNC and Virginia who have added pressure. If the Canes lose to Villanova, it will still be considered a great season.
If UNC or Virginia loses in the Sweet 16, I think their seasons will be considered somewhat of a disappointment. They are the ACC teams that have the most pressure on them, but who needs the Final Four berth more?
North Carolina is one of the most recognizable names in college basketball. They are one of the blue-bloods of the sport, but it has been 7 years since they have been the Final Four. As recently as month ago when UNC lost to Duke, questions about Roy Williams were raised. Have they fallen a step behind arch-rival Duke? Maybe even Kentucky? This was a pre-season top 5 team many considered the best in the nation.
Virginia has been building their program under Tony Bennett for years. They’ve won nearly 70% of their games since Bennett’s arrival. There have been ACC Titles, 30 wins seasons, but they have never advanced past the Sweet 16. As good as Virginia has been, unfair or not March is where it counts, and Virginia has had some NCAA letdowns. Can they get over the hump and reach the Final 4?
Both teams really need a Final 4 berths – UNC to re-establish their program, and Virginia to validate theirs. If I’m choosing though who needs it more, I think it is Virginia. Tony Bennett and Virginia need a deep tournament run. For them to gain respect nationally as a truly emerging program they’ve got to do it March. UNC will remain a blue-blood program. Even Dean Smith had an 8 year run of not making the Sweet 16.
It’s time for Virginia to prove they are the program many of us think they are.