The ACC Season is no more. And what a season it was. 2018-19 featured one of the best title races in recent memory, a couple of classic ACC Tournament games, and ended with THREE ACC squads receiving #1 seeds. Here are the final ACC Power Rankings at season’s end:
Yes, we were all sick to death of hearing about how dominant Duke would have been had Zion Williamson remained in the lineup for the entirety of the ACC schedule. But let’s face it: The ACC Tournament largely validated that statement. The Blue Devils knocked off Syracuse, survived a classic 3rd meeting with the Tar Heels, and overpowered Florida State to win a record 20th ACC Championship. That, coupled with their 3rd place regular season finish and sweep of UVA, is enough for them to take the top spot. Heels are still keeping that ACC Regular Season trophy though...
The Wahoos and the Tar Heels ended their season on basically identical notes: They drew for the ACC Regular Season crown, were knocked out in the ACC Semifinals, and were given #1 seeds on Selection Sunday. Tony Bennett’s squad gets the tiebreaker, however, thanks to their better overall record and their victory in Chapel Hill. Not that any of that matters: The Cavaliers’ season is about righting the wrongs of their 2018 Tournament debacle. Their real season starts now.
3. North Carolina
As Al Pacino said in Any Given Sunday “Life’s this game of inches…” If Cam Johnson or Coby White’s shots in the final minute against Duke had fallen; if Nassir Little’s putback hadn’t been broken up; heck, if ANY of the 23 missed three-pointers had dropped, the Tar Heels would have marched on to the ACCT Final and would occupy the top spot. That’s how narrow the divide is between the ACC’s three juggernauts. And let me be the thousandth person to remind you: 2005, 2009, 2017: Heels lost in the ACC Semifinals all of those years. We know what happened next…
4. Florida State
Regarding the title game...
Let’s be fair to the Noles: Beating Virginia AND Duke at this year’s ACC Tournament would have been nothing short of Herculean. Those teams are ranked #1 and #2 in the country in the latest AP Poll and are national championship favorites. But the Noles did themselves proud in the tourney by upsetting the Cavaliers and enhanced their March Madness credentials ahead of Selection Sunday. With their athleticism and depth, they’re a team that no one wants to face.
5. Virginia Tech
Despite the gut-wrenching loss to FSU in the quarterfinals, the Hokies have to be feeling good about themselves heading into the tourney. Buzz Williams’ squad has a number of big wins to their name, locked up a 4-seed, and are getting Justin Robinson back for the Big Dance.
The Chris Mack Coach of the Year train derailed midseason, as what looked to be an astonishing season from the Cardinals crashed back to reality roughly about the same time Cam Reddish drilled that three to finish off the comeback at the KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals at one point were tied for the lead in the ACC at 6-1; they have since lost 7 of their last 11 games and plummeted out of the rankings. On the menu: A matchup with the Avenging Son Richard Pitino and a potential rematch with Michigan State.
Jim Boeheim and Co. haven’t enjoyed the season many in upstate New York were hoping for, but they could well have a hint of optimism: Tyus Battle will return for the NCAA Tournament, their opening matchup is with a Baylor squad that has lost its last four games, and the one seed that they are facing is Gonzaga; the only top seed that hasn’t faced the Syracuse zone and whose size advantage may be somewhat mitigated by it (if the Orange bring their A-game).
8. NC State
In a long and storied history of false hope, unrewarded faith, and crushing disappointment, this season has to rank right up there for the NIT-bound Wolfpack. Despite the earnest arguments of A.D. Debbie Yow, there were plenty of reasons why the once-Top 15 Pack didn’t get an invite to the Dance. In fact, had I the time, I could give you 24 reasons...
Save any sympathy you may (not) have had for the Wolfpack and impart it to the Tigers: This team’s season was one near miss after another. Brad Brownell’s boys suffered one or two-point losses to UNC, NC State (twice), Miami, and Louisville in the later stages of the season. Tough luck for that school...oh wait, they won in football, they’ll live.
10. Miami Hurricanes
I get tired just thinking about Miami. And not just because of that crazy stressful OT thriller in Chapel Hill. Jim Larranaga’s razor thin squad had four starters averaging over 31 minutes per game this year and basically had one and a half guys coming off the bench. Game after game the Hurricanes wore out. They salvaged a bit of dignity with a win in the ACC Tournament, but at 14-18, this was nothing but a massive disappointment for a team that had high aspirations just a couple years ago.
11. Georgia Tech
A seven-game losing streak midway through the ACC season killed off any hopes the Yellow Jackets had of a respectable season, though they did bring some joy to folks around the Triangle when they upset NC State in Raleigh, which likely was the nail in the coffin for the Wolfpack’s tourney hopes.
12. Boston College
How this Eagles squad managed to beat both Florida State and Louisville this year is a mystery. This was a truly dire squad from a program that has produced some pretty dire squads in recent years. The Ky Bowman Show was only good enough for 12th place ultimately. Their season finale was a loss to a miserable Pitt squad.
13. Notre Dame
The young Irish squad suffered its worst season of the Mike Brey Era thus far. That’s two years in a row that the Fighting Irish have missed the tourney. John Mooney was leaned on all season to carry a team of players who were nothing short of atrocious. Case in point: Mooney averaged 45% from the field; no other Notre Dame player averaging more than 15 minutes of playing time cracked 40%. Woof.
There was once a time when Pittsburgh was 12-5, 2-2 in the ACC, had beaten Louisville and Florida State, and their conference losses were to UNC and #15 NC State. That time was THIS SEASON. What happened? Well...the Panthers lost 12 freakin’ games in a row was what happened. Jeff Capel hasn’t lost that many games since...he played for Duke in 1995. Unfortunately for him, there’s no Pete Gaudet to pin this one on.
15. Wake Forest
Wake is a 1-seed. Nuff said...