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Tudor: ACC falls short of expectations

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This basketball season began with ACC coaches predicting that at least six and perhaps seven or eight of the league's 12 teams would wind up in the NCAA Tournament.

It turned out that only four -- Duke, Miami, North Carolina and N.C. State -- were included in the starting field of 68 teams.

State didn't win a game and Carolina went out in its second game, leaving only Duke and Miami to carry the ACC banner into the Sweet 16 round.

There are two conclusions to be drawn from the disconnect between the coaches' expectations and reality:

1. As a group, ACC coaches are still placing more emphasis on the league's rich basketball history than its so-so current status. Since UNC and Duke put national titles back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, the ACC hasn't produced a Final Four qualifier.

The last time the conference didn't have a Final Four representative for three straight seasons was 1959, 1960 and '61.

Since that '61 Final Four, Duke and UNC have accounted for all of the ACC Final Four appearances with the exception of two each by State, Virginia (both under the coaching of Terry Holland), Georgia Tech and Maryland.

In other words, ACC basketball essentially has been and still is a two-car garage.

And ACC coaches are exactly like most fans when they talk about "ACC strength." What they really mean is "Duke/UNC strength."

2. Unabated expansion hasn't made ACC basketball or football significantly stronger.

The only real exception so far is Virginia Tech football, which generally has been a top-15 team but still not very successful in games of national prominence.

In basketball, the expansion to 12 teams – with more now on the way --   was widely predicted to lead to more NCAA at-large bids.

What we've seen is exactly the opposite, with Virginia this season and last serving as the Exhibit A. In both seasons, the Cavaliers had 20 wins, including several quality wins, but entered the conference tournament on the NCAA bubble, lost and got shipped off to the NIT.

By contrast the Atlantic 10, Mountain West (10 teams) and Big 12 (10 teams) each got five bids this season.

In the 2012 NCAA, the ACC did get five bids but the Big 12 and Big Ten each got six, the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West four each and the West Coast Conference three.

The ACC's move to mega-conference status has served its only purpose by increasing football television revenue.

But in basketball, which has been the ACC's trump card from the start, expansion has weakened the product. This season's move from 16 to 18 league regular-season games did nothing to improve that situation.


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