After years of the Atlantic Coast Conference being one of the premier conferences in college basketball, the ACC started to accept new members. In 2013 the ACC accepted Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. At the time, two of those teams were in the top 25. Additionally, this year the ACC welcomed Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals. The conference has been bolstered by programs like the Virginia Cavaliers emerging as a tier one program evident by the Cavaliers receiving a number 1 seed in last year’s NCAA tournament. By adding these prestigious programs, the ACC has also benefited in recruiting. This year the ACC was able to receive 8 of ESPN’s class of 2014 top 25 recruits, including Duke’s Jahlil Okafor (#1 Overall). As if all of this isn’t enough there’s more! The ACC also features 3 preseason first team all-Americans and 4 preseason top 10 teams. College basketball fans can only respond to these facts by saying that the ACC is College Basketball’s POWERHOUSE. However, when taking a closer look at the performance of the ACC last year, and at the first month of the 2014-2015 season, people are rightfully wondering if the ACC is the conference to beat this season.
A powerhouse conference should be producing top NBA talent right? Well, that has not happened yet for the new and “improved” ACC. In the 2014 NBA draft, which was one of the deepest drafts in NBA history, the ACC produced only 1 top 10 pick (Jabari Parker, SF, Duke, to MIL). In this upcoming NBA draft the ACC is projected by ESPN’s Chad Ford, to only produce 2 top 10 picks (Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke, and Justice Winslow, SF, Duke). Yes 3 top 10 picks is 2 years is still a great accomplishment especially considering that they are all coming out of Duke, However, a powerhouse conference should be producing better NBA talent. Other premier conferences like the BIG 12 and the PAC 12 have produce an equal amount of NBA talent. When considering the strong recruitment of the players to ACC this season it is important to remember that other conferences like the SEC with teams like Kentucky who single-handedly recruited half of the amount of top 25 recruits that the ACC recruited as a whole. This shows that they are not attracting top recruits any more than other premier programs in elite conferences are recruiting.
When looking back at last year’s NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament, and comparing the representation of each conference in the tournament it should be noted that the ACC shows no superiority to any of the other conferences. The ACC sent 6 teams to the Big Dance last year, highlighted by Virginia receiving a number 1 seed and Duke receiving a number 3 seed. By sending 6 teams to the tournament the ACC was tied for having the second largest representation in the tournament last year with both the PAC 12 Conference and the American 10 conference who also sent 6 teams to the tournament. The BIG 12 was the big winner of last season by sending 7 teams to the tournament. When looking at the performance of ACC teams in last year’s tournament, the teams were very subpar. How can a conference that is superior to all other conferences not have a single team in the Final Four or the Elite 8? Forget that, only one team from the ACC even made it as far as the Sweet 16! This fact proves that the ACC is not yet a “powerhouse,” if anything it is just as good, if not worse than the other elite conferences.
Although the season is young, it has provided a rollercoaster of performances from all teams. Among the ups up to this point are the performances of #2 Duke, #4 Louisville, and #6 Virginia, as all three teams are undefeated at this point of the season. Duke had a very notable win at previously 2nd ranked Wisconsin that solidified them as a strong force, despite having an extremely young team. Louisville and Virginia have both have had their fair share of strong performances this year as well, however none more notable than Duke’s win over Wisconsin. These teams will all be tested in the upcoming months, especially once they start to play conference games against each other. In these conference matchups, you can’t count out any team. In fact with these 2 game series, any team can snag a revenge win after losing the first meeting. By the ACC having 3 of the top 10 teams right now it does not show any superiority whatsoever, events like inter-conference matchups such as the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, can give the polls a major makeover in the matter of one night.
It is impossible to mention the ups of Duke, Louisville, and Virginia without mentioning the downs of #24 North Carolina. UNC came in to the season with a lot of hype as the Tar Heels were given a preseason ranking of 6. This is based on their 3 top 20 recruits and their offense highlighted by the preseason All-American of the year, guard Marcus Paige and the positive news regarding the strong athletic ability of their offense. All this hype has led to a letdown. North Carolina already has 3 loses and 2 of which are at the hands of unranked opponents, and the other to #1 ranked Kentucky. The ACC has also seen previously ranked Syracuse get off to a rough start. Last season the Orange spent the majority of their season undefeated and as the number 1 team in the nation. However this is far from their performance this year as they have fell to 8 and 3 to start off the season. While this season is looking like a positive one for the ACC’s Duke, Louisville, and Virginia, the rest of the conference might not share the same fate.
Looking back at the performance of the new and so-called “improved” ACC, to this point, it is an average conference when compared with the other premier conferences. While the ACC has received plenty of hype based on their additions of multiple tier one program and additions of multiple top recruits. The ACC has not shown itself to perform as a conference that is superior to its competitors to the point where it can be considered a step above other conferences. Thus answering the question that the Atlantic Coast Conference is NOT College Basketball’s “powerhouse” just yet.