When Maryland Coach Gary Williams argued that the ACC needed to do a better job promoting its basketball teams if the league wanted to be appropriately rewarded in the national rankings and, in turn, in its NCAA Tournament bids, some fans dismissed it as whining. The Terps, of course, struggled through a disappointing season to finish 19-14, 7-9 and get passed over by both the NCAA and NIT tournament selection committees.
“We have to figure out as a league how to get more teams in the [NCAA] tournament,” Williams said during the final broadcast of his radio show on WTEM-ESPN 980. “There been a lot of lobbying that goes on that wasn’t there before. As a league, you have to do that, too, to keep up with the Jones’. We have to go after it a lot harder in the ACC than we did 10 years ago.”
Now that the NCAA’s 68-team field has been pared to 16, Williams’ argument looks pretty compelling—particularly as its relates to the respective fates of the Big East, which set a record with 11 NCAA Tournament bids, and the ACC, which got only four.
Heading into the Sweet 16, only two of the Big East’s 11 teams were still standing (Connecticut and Marquette), while three of the ACC’s four will play on (Duke, North Carolina and Florida State). The 10th seeded Seminoles tipped the balance in the ACC’s favor with their 71-57 upset of the No. 2 Irish Sunday night, holding Notre Dame to 31.7 percent shooting while drilling seven 3-pointers in the first half alone.
With two Round-of-32 pairings between Big East rivals (Cincinnati vs. Connecticut; Marquette vs. Syracuse), the league, at best, could have placed nine teams in the Sweet 16. Instead, it managed two.
In percentage terms, 18 percent of BIG East NCAA Tournament teams advanced to the Sweet 16 compared to 75 percent of the ACC’s.
Below is recap of how each league fared in the tournament’s opening week:
Seed School Games won (Results)
#1 Pittsburgh 1 (Def. UNC Asheville; Lost to Butler)
#2 Notre Dame 1 (Def. Akron; Lost to FSU)
#3 Connecticut 2 (Def. Bucknell, Cincinnati)
#3 Syracuse 1 (Def. Indiana St; Lost to Marquette)
#4 Louisville 0 (Lost to Morehead State)
#5 West Virginia 1 (Def. Clemson; Lost to Kentucky)
#6 Georgetown 0 (Lost to Virginia Commonwealth)
#6 St. John’s 0 (Lost to Gonzaga)
#6 Cincinnati 1 (Def. Missouri; Lost to Connecticut)
#9 Villanova 0 (Lost to George Mason)
#11 Marquette 2 (Def. Xavier, Syracuse)
Seed School Games won
#1 Duke 2 (Def. Hampton, Michigan)
#2 North Carolina 2 (Def. Long Island, Washington)
#10 Florida State 2 (Def. Texas A&M, Notre Dame)
#12 Clemson 1 (Def. UAB in play-in game; Lost to WVU)