ACC Breakdown: Conference performing below expectations at season's midpoint

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 9:51 pm

This past summer, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee met to tweak a rule that would affect teams from power basketball conferences.

The new rule allows teams from the same conference that played each other only once during the season to square off starting in the third round of the championship. The original rule “did not allow more than two teams from a league to be [placed] in the same region unless nine or more teams were selected [to the overall tournament] from one conference,” according to NCAA.com

In addition, teams from the same league that meet twice during a regular season will not play each other until the Sweet 16, and teams from the same league that square off three times in a season cannot play until the Elite 8.

Some suggested the rule was enacted in fear of the ACC sending the majority of its member schools to the NCAA Tournament.

After all, conference leaders, coaches and athletic directors shared the same confidence that the new-look ACC would become the nation’s premiere college basketball conference after expanding to include Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame, as well as preparing to induct Louisville in the fall.

“They wanted to have the best basketball conference in the country,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said when asked about Pitt’s decision to join the ACC.

But in an interview with The Pitt News, Ron Wellman, chairman of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, strongly denied that the committee made such decisions with the ACC in mind.

“Absolutely not,” said Wellman, who also serves as athletic director at Wake Forest. “In fact, when we talked about a rule change, we did not talk about any conference specifically.”

Instead, Wellman said it’s rare for teams to play twice during a season anymore, suggesting that there’s little harm in matching up teams for a second time if they have played each other only once.

“What we have noticed is that many of the conferences are not playing double round-robin regular season schedules anymore,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of imbalance in the conference schedules as a result of that, and we [shouldn’t] prevent those teams from playing earlier in the tournament when they’re only playing one time during the regular season, and we felt that for bracketing purpose, as well as competitive purposes, it would be best to allow conference teams to meet earlier in the tournament, rather than holding off for so long.”

When a storm of conference moves shook the collegiate landscape in 2011, all major conferences, excluding the Big 12, grew by adding more teams than the number of teams that left.

Because the Big 12 is now the only conference in which teams play each other twice, Wellman said, the committee saw more reason to change.

“The original rule was implemented when the vast majority of conferences were playing a double round-robin regular-season schedule. We no longer have that scenario in the majority of conferences,” he said.

So far, the 15-member ACC basketball conference has slumped well below its expectations, and lately, national college basketball analysts have predicted NCAA Tournament fields to contain just four to six ACC teams.

The midway point in ACC play just passed, and a handful of critical games lay ahead in the coming weeks. Here are The Pitt News’ updated power rankings.

Syracuse (23-0, 10-0 ACC)

Propelled by National Player of the Year candidate C.J. Fair’s 19 points, the Orange extended their longest win streak in school history to 23 games, beating Clemson 57-44 on Saturday. Fair was guarded by Clemson junior K.J. McDaniels, one of the ACC’s prolific defenders.

Virginia (19-5, 10-1 ACC)

The Cavaliers have struggled to find consistent scoring for the majority of the season, but they haven’t had that problem as of late. Sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon has emerged as an offensive threat for Virginia, averaging more than 16 points per game in his team’s last eight contests. The Cavs are second in the nation in team defense, holding opponents to an average of 55.6 points per game.

Duke (19-5, 8-3 ACC)

Jabari Parker is playing like a future NBA All-Star. In just 29 minutes of work Saturday, the freshman phenom amassed 29 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocked shots against Boston College.

T-4 North Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC)

The Tar Heels have won five straight games, and they will host Duke Wednesday after Pitt and Syracuse. It will be hard for the Tar Heels to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament without a win against Duke — whom they play twice — and Pitt or a deep run in the ACC Tournament.

T-4 Pitt (20-4, 8-3 ACC)

The Panthers have been lucky to pull out their past two games — both overtime wins — against two bottom-half teams in the ACC. Things won’t get easier for Pitt, either, since leading scorer Lamar Patterson has missed two of last week’s practices because of an undisclosed injury to his right hand. Patterson had just one field goal in Pitt’s double-overtime win against last-place Virginia Tech on Saturday. Patterson’s status for Wednesday is unknown.

Clemson (15-7, 6-4 ACC)

The Tigers have a chance to pick up a signature win when they play Virginia on Saturday. Clemson is among ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s first four out of the NCAA Tournament.

Maryland (14-10, 6-5 ACC)

The Terrapins have a tough home stretch. They still have to play Duke and Syracuse once each, and Virginia twice.

Florida State (14-9, 5-6 ACC)

To go with five losses in the Seminoles’ last seven games, the team sustained a potential blow to its future when commit Cinmeon Bowers, a product of junior college and a four-star power forward by Rivals.com, was arrested on charges of eating marijuana in an attempt to conceal it from police.

North Carolina State (15-8, 5-5 ACC)

The Wolfpack have won four of its last five games and will take on Wake Forest tonight.

Wake Forest (14-9, 4-6 ACC)

Wake Forest guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, the team’s leading scorer, sprained his ankle last week against Georgia Tech but is expected to play against North Carolina State tonight. Freshman Greg McClinton, who suffered an ACL tear last year, has begun running exercises and shooting drills.

Notre Dame (12-12, 3-8 ACC)

The Irish hung with Syracuse on the road last week, but they came up shy, 61-55. They still have to host Pitt and play at Virginia.

Georgia Tech (12-12, 3-8 ACC)

The Yellow Jackets’ best shot at another win will come Wednesday against Boston College.

Miami (11-12, 2-8 ACC)

After a 59-55 overtime loss against Pitt, the Hurricanes lost at home to North Carolina State, 56-55.

Boston College (6-17, 2-8 ACC)

The Eagles took Notre Dame into overtime last week, losing 73-63. They play Georgia Tech tomorrow.

Virginia Tech (8-15, 1-10)

The Hokies were down three starters and almost pulled out a win at Pitt Saturday. Those players have a full week to recover before playing Miami Saturday. 

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