The ACC is Struggling This Season

Jan 31, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach Jon Scheyer directs his team during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils won 75-73. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Not too long ago, the ACC was considered the elite college basketball conference. Three different teams won national championships in the 2010s. Just last year, Duke and North Carolina faced off in the final four. However, simply looking at the 2022-2023 season, the ACC has been underwhelming. Only one team is ranked in the Top 10 of the current AP Poll. Only one team is ranked in the Top 25 of the NET rankings. For a conference once considered elite, underwhelming might be an understatement.

The ACC is Struggling This Season

Some Good Before a Lot of Bad

Before diving into the ACC’s struggles, one thing must be prefaced. The ACC is still expected to send around seven or eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. However, the ACC is accustomed to a lot of their schools making deep runs and winning in March (Technically April now). This does not seem likely this year.

The one shining star in the dim ACC this year has been Virginia. Tony Bennett and Kihei Clark have the Cavaliers ranked 8th in the AP Poll and 14th in the NET. They will most likely be around a three-seed in the NCAA Tournament and can compete with almost anyone. Virginia has been carrying the ACC since the start of the season and might have to continue in order to keep the ACC respectable.

Clemson and Pitt are having fantastic seasons compared to their previous few seasons. They’re tied with Virginia at the top of the ACC standings. Miami is ranked 19th, and NC State is ranked 22nd, the first time the Wolfpack has been ranked since 2019. Both teams have enough talent to win a game or two come mid-March.

Now the Struggles

The two biggest disappointments in the ACC this year should not come as a surprise. North Carolina and Duke entered the season ranked 1st and 7th in the country, respectively. This past weekend they played each other as unranked foes. Earlier this week, both teams suffered brutal road losses. Duke is 3-7 in Quad 1 games, and UNC is an awful 1-8, as both teams struggle in their toughest matchups. Currently, Duke is projected to be around a seven-seed, and UNC is a potential bubble team after losing three straight games. And, of course, either of these teams can win a game come March, but a deep run would be shocking.

As mentioned earlier, Clemson and Pitt are both having their best seasons in recent memory. However, neither team is currently ranked. Neither team is ranked in the NET Top 50. Neither team is projected to be above an eight-seed come March. And yet either team could win the ACC regular season.

Although Miami and NC State both entered the week ranked in the AP Poll, they are significantly lower in the NET rankings. Miami checks in at 30th, and NC State trails far behind at 43rd. NC State is only 5-6 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games this season.

The ACC also contains a number of bottom-level teams that have been struggling this season. Louisville is 3-21, Georgia Tech is 9-15, Florida State is 8-17, Notre Dame is 10-14, and Boston College is 12-13. All five teams are ranked lower than 165th in the NET. The ACC as a whole has an average NET ranking of 109. For perspective, the entire Big 12 is ranked within the top 75.

An Anomaly or New Expectation

Over the past few seasons, the ACC has built up the reputation of being the powerhouse of college basketball. From constant season-long success to several NCAA Tournament championships, the ACC became dominant. As the season’s end gets closer and closer, it would be shocking to see an ACC team make serious noise in the NCAA Tournament. Whether this season’s struggles are an anomaly for the ACC or their new expectation remains to be seen.