Over the past few years, America’s premier college hoops conference has undoubtedly been the ACC. Since the conference expanded in 2014, the conference has sent no less than 6 teams to the big dance and has had only one year where it is not represented in the elite eight. In addition, 2 of the last 6 champions have come from the ACC.
The ACC has depth, a characteristic many other conferences lack. Especially in 2019, as the ACC has up to 12 teams looking for a tournament bid in March. But why does the ACC have so much success? What makes them have better teams year in and year out?
First, the ACC is known for improving their players and sending them on to the NBA. This year, the ACC had a whopping 6 first round draft picks. Coaches in the ACC are aware of this startling statistic, and they use it to their advantage when recruiting the nation’s best high school prospects. Last season, Duke had four of their starting five go in the draft, with more being signed to summer teams.
The ACC is also known for developing their players. Coaches in the conference are very good at finding raw talent and changing that raw talent into high skill level that is ready to compete. When Virginia brought in Malcolm Brogdon, he was a low three star. However, after 5 years, he became ACC POY, a second round draft pick, and won the NBA ROTY.
This season will be no different from the past. Duke is bringing in the best freshman class of all time, North Carolina is bringing in another top recruit in Nassir Little, and teams such as Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest are bringing in top 50 players. The ACC is bringing back 6 of their 15 all conference players, including two of the first teamers. More interestingly, the two top vote getters in the Most Improved Player selection are returning.
In addition to the players, the ACC has a plethora of elite coaching. Names such as Mike Brey of Notre Dame and Roy Williams top the list, but like the rosters, the conference runs deep with coaches. Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner are excellent strategically and develop their players well.
In the past, the ACC has experienced trouble in the tournament. Since 2014, there has only been one year in which two ACC teams have made the elite eight, which is alarming considering on average over 10% of the field is made up of ACC teams. However, this season will be different, as every team is playing with a chip on their shoulder.
In last year’s tournament, a year where the ACC failed to make the final four, all nine selections went out earlier than they hoped. As a result, many began to doubt the players and coaches, denouncing the ACC. Every player, coach, and team will be playing 2019 with a grudge and that will lead to extra intensity in March.
The biggest factor for the ACC to have a historic 2019 season is the depth of the conference. Duke, UNC, Virginia, and Syracuse will lead the pack, and after those four powerhouse teams, it will be a dog fight for a bye in the ACC tournament in DC this year.
NC State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Florida State, Louisville, Boston College, and Miami all have the ability to make noise in the ACC. With 12 teams looking for tournament bids, every game counts, both in and out of conference. Most ACC teams scheduled well, and big November wins and intense February conference games will make for exceptional basketball that will carry into the big dance.
With these factors in play, the ACC is set to have a historic season. Every roster is stacked with talent to the core and has a mix of senior leadership and young talent. The raw players have become more developed in the off-season, and former three star recruits are ready to step into a captain role. The coaches have their eyes set on March, but will play every game with something to prove.
If the season goes as expected, the ACC will have four teams in the top 15 at the end of the year, and up to 12 in the field of 68. No matter how things shape up, the ACC is the deepest, best coached, and talented conference in the nation, and none other will come close to their success in 2019.