Conference pride is cool, but that’s not really traditionally an ACC thing. You’ll never hear a non-sarcastic “ACC” chant, and you certainly won’t find fans from around the conference lining up to celebrate a North Carolina or Duke national championship for solidarity’s sake. That’s just not who we are here in the ACC … until someone from “the outside” decides to take shots at our conference, that is.
The popular response to the ACC breaking its own one-year-old record for 5 teams in the Sweet 16 was the hottest of “they ain’t played nobody” takes, which is all well and good if we’re struggling to find a black and white comparison between teams or leagues. Historically? Yeah. Six teams vs. five may be due to luck of the draw or the depth of the field, but historical arguments are meant for off-season columns and the darkest corners of message boards.
In a single-elimination tournament, which is how we’ve always decided the national champion in college basketball, the team that wins six (or seven) games is the champion regardless of the path they took to get there. Have a problem with Syracuse beating a 15 seed to get to the Sweet 16? Well that 15 seed was there because they were good enough to beat 2 seed Michigan State. Sorry, not sorry.
The NCAA Tournament is not the time to qualify success by analyzing strength of schedule, and to do so is simply an act of being a hater. There’s no way around that. The best part is that most of the criticism comes from pundits who continuously move the goalposts on the teams that advance. “Duke is the team most ripe for a first round upset.” “Don’t sleep on Yale against a vulnerable Duke team.” “Duke had an easy path to the Sweet 16.” And if you’re blinded by Duke being used as an example that you allow yourself to agree with, pretend it says any ACC team other than North Carolina and Virginia, because the comments are identical.
And look, the ACC probably won’t put 6 teams in the Elite 8, but you can bet on each of their opponents getting A LOT better this week, if you know what I mean. Indiana’s guards can outplay UNC’s guards, so watch out. Oregon is deep and athletic, which is the kind of team to beat Duke. Gonzaga is the hottest team in the tournament. That is, until the ACC advances again and it becomes “UNC dodged Kentucky, Oregon was overseeded, and Syracuse beat an 11 seed.”
There’s no nuance to “survive and advance”. You either do or you don’t. It’s about as black and white as you can get. There are no advanced metrics in a bracket. Just addition and subtraction, kind of like a bank account. And speaking of bank accounts, according to ESPN, each NCAA game is worth around $1.6M from the NCAA’s basketball fund to share TV revenue with member institutions. The ACC then shares that revenue among its own membership, so each win is an estimated $100,000 for each ACC school. That number adds up fast when you consider that the league is guaranteed a minimum of 19 games at this point.