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Steve Phillips, Special to the ACC.com
League well represented in quests for men’s & women’s titles
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – Atlantic Coast Conference teams are accustomed to occupying prominent spots on the NCAA’s Big Dance card, and this March is no exception.
Fourteen conference basketball teams – six men’s and eight women’s – are set to begin their quests for NCAA titles. With an additional two men’s teams in the NIT field and three teams competing in the Women’s NIT, the ACC leads all conferences with 19 teams landing spots in postseason play.
As one digs deeper, the numbers grow all the more impressive.
On the men’s side, Duke earned a No. 1 seed in the South Regional, upping the ACC’s record number of No. 1 seeds to 33. With Virginia a No. 2 seed, ACC champion Notre Dame a No. 3 and North Carolina and Louisville both at No. 4, the ACC also leads all conferences with five teams holding top-four regional seeds in the 2015 Men’s NCAA Championship field.
Add NC State, seeded No. 8 in the East Regional and in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year under head coach Mark Gottfried, and the ACC boasts a solid half-dozen teams capable of making a deep run. North Carolina head coach Roy Williams believes the competitive regular season and 2015 New York ACC Tournament left them prepared to do just that
“I think it’s exciting,” Williams said. “What we have is the most unbelievable regular season I’ve ever been involved with – not even close any other time. …it’s a marathon running 26 miles uphill, because it was really a bear.”
The six-team ACC men’s contingent will be trying to improve on some already stout historical numbers. Consider:
The NCAA Women’s Tournament finds ACC champion Notre Dame is seeded No. 1 in the Oklahoma City Regional. With Florida State a No. 2 seed, Louisville a No. 3, and Duke and North Carolina at No. 4, the ACC women matched the ACC men with five teams earning top-four regional seeds.
Notre Dame, Florida State, Duke and North Carolina will be hosts for the first and second rounds of the women’s NCAAs.
“I think it's critical for us to be at home," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "It eases everybody's mind. There's that comfort feeling, you're in your own locker room, you're in your own bed at night, and you've got your fans. That's the biggest thing for us – the fans.”
Echoing the sentiment of UNC’s Williams on the men’s side, Florida State coach Sue Semrau believes the regular-season wars have left the Seminoles and their ACC counterparts battle-tested.
“There are eight teams that are from our conference and in the tournament,” she noted. “You look at some of the other teams we played like a Tulane, and going on the road and beating them. Those are the types of games that get us ready for this time of year.”
ACC women’s basketball boasts some impressive numbers of its own, both this season and historically:
The first NCAA action for ACC men’s teams opens on Thursday and continues on Friday with regional second-round games. ACC women’s teams open NCAA regional play on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s an exciting time,” Virginia men’s coach Tony Bennett said. “But you have to play, and you have to play well to advance. That’s certainly the case in our bracket, and for everybody in the tournament.”