The Runner Sports

What Happened To The ACC?

It only took one weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but as shocking as it may sound we are already down to a single team left standing from the ACC. Congratulations to 1-seeded North Carolina, who took care of their business by winning their first two games, although Arkansas did not make it easy on Sunday.  As a conference, the ACC went a combined 5-8 with Duke, Louisville, and Florida State all being upset by seven-seeds or lower. This doesn’t even include the complete no shows by Miami versus Michigan State and Virginia against Florida. For all the hype coming into the season about how deep and talented the conference is, this is an extremely poor showing from top to bottom. So, what happened? In my opinion, it comes down to three key factors; bad perimeter defense, poor three-point shooting on offense, and a bit of bad luck.

Perimeter Defense

Over the course of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, ACC schools struggled quite a bit defending the outside shot. In fifteen games against the ACC, opponents shot 35% from deep. Now that may not sound like an extremely accurate clip, but when foes attempt 23 threes a game it equals out to about eight made threes a game. Take a second to think about that, that is 24 PPG from deep or 32% of ACC school’s total points. In the games in which opponents shot at least 35% from deep the ACC went 3-6.

With guys like Steph Curry, James Harden, and Damian Lillard all taking at least seven threes a game in the NBA, younger players of all sizes are developing their shot more now than ever, and the results are starting to materialize. If the ACC wants to get back to being the top conference in basketball then everyone must adjust for this change and find a way to take away the three.

Three-Point Shooting

Not only does the ACC struggle defending the three, but they also struggle shooting it. As a conference, the ACC shot two full percentage points lower than their opponents, and scored only 25% of their points from deep. ACC schools made at least ten threes only three times, with two of them belonging to Duke and the third to Notre Dame. The ACC went 0-6 in games in which they trailed heading into halftime. In this day and age it is difficult to come back on an opponent without the benefit of the three-point shot, so when an ACC school got down it was generally game over for them.

Bad Luck

Ultimately the thing that probably hurt the ACC the most was the fact that their opponents shot about as well as you could. Opposing teams shot an extremely efficient 78% from the free throw line against ACC schools. To put that into perspective, out of the 351 Division I schools only seven (Notre Dame, Central Michigan, Villanova, Oklahoma State, Wofford, Mercer, and Marquette) managed to shoot 78% for the entire season. In the Big Dance, everything matters just a little more, and good free throw shooting can be the difference in advancing in March. Unfortunately for the ACC, there is not much you can do to stop your opponents from scoring at the line except don’t put them there.

Sterling Thomas

Sterling Thomas

Born in Littleton, Colorado, Sterling moved to the heart of ACC country when he was young and developed a deep passion for basketball.

Fast forward to college where Sterling had the opportunity to work with the Florida Gulf Coast University basketball team under Andy Enfield and was apart of the 15-seed Eagles that made a historic run to the Sweet Sixteen and was dubbed Dunk City.
Sterling Thomas