“And putting together a schedule with two regular partners for each school was a mistake. It should be no more than one. The schedule worked fine for Duke and for Carolina and for Maryland [which plays Duke twice every year], but not so much for the other schools. You’ve got to have everyone playing everyone else. They’re talking about some kind of pod system for the new expansion where some teams wouldn’t play at all in a given year. That would be a big mistake and I’m afraid they might make it.”
Right now, the ACC has three teams that appear headed for brutal seasons: Wake Forest, Boston College and Georgia Tech. When it was pointed out to Swofford that the bottom of the league may be as weak this season as it has ever been, Swofford said, “Let’s put it this way: the bottom of the league probably isn’t as strong as it has been in the past.”
Another issue is the fall of the ACC tournament, once the event in college basketball outside of the NCAA tournament. For more than 40 years, there was no public sale of ACC tournament tickets. Now there is one.
The first day of the tournament, on Thursday, “is a challenge,” Swofford said. “Of course that’s true of early rounds across the country. The difference is, we’ve been the standard-bearer in the past so it’s more noticeable when it happens to us.”
Naturally, the coaches defend the quality of the league.
“College basketball has changed everywhere,” Krzyzewski said. “People go everywhere now, not just to the power conferences. There are more good teams, less great teams. The ACC is still pretty damn good.”
“Hey, we’ve got eight teams in the [RPI] top 100,” said Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg, who has lived his life on the bubble since he was in grade school. “What’s so bad about that?”
Nothing, except this: The ACC was once an eight-team league that received six NCAA tournament bids (1986). Last season, it was a 12-team league that was lucky to get four.
The first 10 times the ACC and the Big Ten met in their “challenge” series, the ACC won. The last three years, the Big Ten has won, including by an 8-4 margin this season.
Then again, the ACC is 4-3 against the Ivy League this season. Of course, six of those seven games were played on ACC home courts; one at a neutral site. Maybe the ACC can work out a similar deal with the Big Ten in the future.
Or it could expand again. The Washington Wizards might be available. That would probably give the league one more team in the top 100. Then again, maybe not.
For more by the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com