For the ACC it’s been a lot of good in the last few years – 2 Football National Titles, a slew of Big 6 bowl wins, a recent dominance over the SEC in football, 11 Sweet 16 teams the last two years, 7 Elite 8 teams, 3 Final Four teams, and a national title. It was record setting NCAA tournament success at that. There was even a baseball national championship in baseball by Virginia in 2015. There’s no sugar coating the debacle that happened this weekend at the Big Dance, though.
The ACC wasn’t just bad, it was one of worst performances history has ever seen from a multi-bid conference. Deservedly the ACC got ripped, by the national media.
If North Carolina doesn’t rally to beat a slightly above Arkansas team on Sunday night, the conference has ZERO sweet 16 teams. How did this happen to the RPI’s Number 1 rated conference, that had 10 teams ranked in the top 50 by KenPom.com. Well for one thing games aren’t played by computers, they are played by teams. While no one could have for saw this weekend’s epic failure, there were signs from some of these good, but flawed teams that something like this was possible if unlikely.
Back in 2014, when the year ACC only got 1 team into the Sweet 16 I said this about the league….
“I believe the ACC had become largely a finesse basketball league, and that has hurt the conference in the NCAA tournament where the style of play is typically more physical.”
I don’t think the conference suffering a stylistic problem in 2017, it was simply the perfect storm of opponents exploiting deficiencies from the ACC team they played against. We’ve already discussed what happened with FSU, Notre Dame, and Virginia.
Xavier zoned up FSU, and the Noles looked like the team that got whacked in Atlanta, when Georgia Tech mixed zones and FSU failed to adjust. As we’ve said all year Virginia could only go as far as London Perrantes could take them.
Time and time again we said FSU could get to the Final 4 or get knocked out the first round because of their inconsistent play. Virginia struggled to score all year when London Perrantes was off. Notre Dame was a thin team, that looked ripe to be wore down by West Virginia’s relentless pressure.
When you look at Louisville, 3 times in their last 6 games before the NCAA tourney, they gave up more than 80 points. That team was struggling defensively long before Michigan dropped 45 on the Cardinals in the 2nd half of their game.
What about Duke? Let’s not forget this was a 7 loss team in the ACC, that lost 3 out 4 games on two different occasions, and went 3-6 on the road in the ACC. Make no mistake Duke was playing a road game in Greenville, SC against South Carolina, and you only have to look at Duke’s road ACC record to envision that loss was possible.
In a vacuum each loss wasn’t as shocking as it first appeared, but it was shocking was how each ACC team’s flaw got exposed on the same weekend. It was a stroke of bad luck it happened all at once, but also a credit to Xavier, Florida, West Virginia, Michigan and South Carolina who had their opponents well scouted, and their own teams prepared.
North Carolina is the only remaining ACC team in the NCAAs, if you’re looking for a weakness on that team – I’ll give you two. UNC is ranked 134th in the country in 3 point defense, and if Joel Berry gets in foul trouble that offense is going have problems.