Another Dud For The ACC In The NCAA Tourney

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: March 22, 2007

NORTH CAROLINA — For those who question why the HBCU’s should not get an automatic bid into the NCAA Division I Tournament (although some have to play in the proverbial “play-in” game), I have six reasons why they should: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Duke.

How are these great institutions related to my opening statement? They all bowed out in either the first or second round of the NCAA Tournament this season and they all reside in the overrated ACC.
Thank goodness for UNC (pending Friday’s result).
Some ACC fans and alumni may say I’m being too harsh and the early exits of many teams in the ACC this season is the exception and not the rule, but the recent track record doesn’t bare that.
Let’s break down each team in the ACC eliminated, the teams that eliminated them and the score
UNLV 67, Georgia Tech 63: Although I love Paul Hewitt, I think the consensus by most was a Yellow Jackets’ victory over the Runnin Rebels especially since they haven’t really been this good since the days of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.
Virginia Commonwealth 79, Duke 77: The Blue Devils of Duke University? No you mean the Blue Devils of Central Connecticut, right? Wait a minute, CCSU made it as a 16th seed by winning their tournament and actually got beaten by a No. 1 seed. So that can’t be Duke because they didn’t win the ACC Tourney right? In fairness to Duke, VCU shot the ball very well and they played with the heart of a lion.
Their ability to mount a comeback was not only witnessed against Duke, but also against Pitt when they rallied from 19 down and forced overtime. If you are a Duke fan, you have to be concerned because the Dukies seem to lack not only depth but talent. With rumors of players leaving to go pro and Coach K’s head in the Olympic clouds, the future doesn’t seem too bright for them.
Butler 62, Maryland 59: I refuse to say “The Butler Did It” but they actually did. Like coach Hewitt, I think Gary Williams did a fabulous job with the talent and players on his team but it wasn’t enough against the upstart mid-major team at Butler.
Southern Illinois 63, Virginia Tech 48: So much for the “powerhouse” victory of an ACC over the little Mid-Major conference. Again, I like the coach (Seth Greenberg) but the Hokies seemed to be so over matched. Maybe they would have looked better in the NIT.
Georgetown 62, Boston College 55: A valiant came up short like most of the Eagles’ games since joining the ACC. This was the one team out of seven I thought would underachieve and they did. Although the score was close, BC was leading at half time and most experts had them winning the game. Most experts were once again wrong.
Tennessee 77, Virginia 74: This was definitely a game where both teams didn’t want to go home. But someone had to lose and it was the Cavaliers. All I know, even though the Cavaliers lost, it wasn’t because of head coach and former UConn assistant Dave Leitao.
Outside of UNC’s national crown in 2005 and a runner-up appearance by Georgia Tech a year earlier, the ACC hasn’t seen the consistent “glory days” since Maryland’s 2002 title and Duke’s back-to-back crowns in 1991-92. To say the ACC has been and is the best conference in America is almost laughable.
The irony of those who proclaim the ACC as the best in the land is that three of the teams ousted in this year’s big dance are not originally from the conference. They’re actually schools transported from the Big East Conference-a conference that still has two of its five selected teams in the Sweet 16.
In fairness, the ACC isn’t alone. What about the Big Ten? Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue all were sent packing. But with the exception of Wisconsin, expectations were not as high as it was for a conference that is so celebrated year after year but underachieves and struggles to produce.
I heard all the excuses from the proficient and schooled experts of Tobacco Road to others across the country trying to sell the fact the ACC has had a down year. They’re selling but I’m not buying.
Duke’s struggles this season doesn’t equate to an entire conference on the decline. Maybe Duke is on the downward spiral but not the conference. They still get the same talent and they have some of the best coaches in the country, but sometimes talent doesn’t win
Coaches are not always the difference either, heart and desire to win can be the edge. Tell me VCU defeated Duke in the first round primarily and solely on talent and athletic ability and I will tell you that is half of the winning equation.
VCU was down double digits midway thru the second half of the game and found a way to win with heart, desire and determination along with great shooting and defensive prowess to send the Dukies and their fans home early and in shock.
I wasn’t surprised by VCU conquering Duke, nor was I surprised by Maryland’s loss to Butler. In fact, the defending national champion Florida Gators should be concern because they are about to battle a well-coached, smart and hungry Butler team.
The NCAA Tournament is not only about skill and ability, it’s about heart, desire, the will to win, playing the game or games of your life and playing with an edge or a “chip on your shoulder”.
It’s also the difference between schools that read all the accolades, praise and predictions the mainstream media bestows upon them and failing to live up to those expectations and those school’s that read and watch those same experts who tell them they can’t and will not win and use it to their benefit.
It’s their edge and the heavily favorite schools demise.
My advice to the ACC: Focus on winning the games on the court and stop centralizing their energies on what experts and opinion columns say on the court. Then and only then will breed success and championships for more than just three teams in the conference.