ACC Teams Begin Their March

Steve Phillips, Special to the

League well represented in quests for men’s & women’s titles

GREENSBORO, N.C. ( – 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 ACC has not posted a losing record in NCAA Tournament play since 1987, a 28-year streak that stands as the nation’s longest.
  • The ACC is the winningest conference in NCAA Tournament history. Current ACC membership leads all leagues with 565 wins in NCAA Tournament play, 162 more than the next-closest conference.
  • The ACC also owns the highest tournament winning percentage at .613. The Big Ten is second at .608.
  • Since 1981, the ACC has won more NCAA national titles (10) than any other conference. The Big East is second with seven, while the SEC is third with six championships.
  • Current league members have won 15 NCAA Championships. North Carolina leads the way with five national titles, followed by Duke (4), Louisville (3) NC State (2) and Syracuse (1).
  • Since 1985, the ACC has produced 24 Final Four teams, again leading all conferences.
  • With Duke ranked fifth, Virginia sixth and ACC champion Notre Dame eighth, this marks the 55th consecutive season that the conference has had at least one team ranked among the Top 10 in the final Associated Press poll.
  • The combined 214 career NCAA Tournament wins by the ACC six head coaches in this year’s field leads all conferences. That includes the all-time leader in Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (82). North Carolina’s Williams ranks third with 63, and Louisville’s Rick Pitino is fifth with 50.
  • Current and past ACC coaches hold the top five spots in all-time NCAA tourney wins. The late Dean Smith of North Carolina ranks second behind Krzyzewski with 65. Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim ranks behind Williams and just ahead of Pitino with 53.
  • The ACC has seen at least two teams reach the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA Tournament in 31 of the last 35 seasons.
  • Six of the last 14 NCAA Championships belong to teams currently in the ACC. The AAC and SEC are the next closest during that time span with three titles each.

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 ACC’s eight bids to the Women’s NCAA Championship are the most of any league. The SEC and Big Ten are next with seven each.
  • This marks the 21st consecutive year with at least four ACC teams selected to the NCAA Women’s Championship field.
  • With Virginia, NC State and Georgia Tech earning bids to the WNIT, the ACC is sending 11 women’s teams to postseason play. leading all conferences.
  • Six ACC teams have at least 20 wins, and Pitt and Miami each have 19 heading into the NCAA Tournament.
  • Five ACC teams finished the regular season ranked among the nation’s top 16 of both the AP and the USA Today Coaches Poll, the most of any conference in the nation. Three league teams (No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 7 Florida State and No. 8 Louisville) are ranked in the Top 10 of the Coaches Poll, also more than any other conference.
  • The ACC posted a 157-43 record against nonconference opponents during the regular season (.765).
  • The 2015 ACC Women’s Tournament had a total attendance of 60,779, the 10th straight year that the event has broken 55,000 and the seventh time with more than 60,000 in attendance. This year’s total attendance ranked seventh all-time in the tournament’s 38-year history.

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.”