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Michigan coach John Beilein celebrated in the locker room with a water gun.

Take that, ACC.

Hi. I’m Monica. I’ve been a lowkey ACC hater all season.

I get it, the ACC is college basketball royalty. Even this year, the conference gave us mammoth battles between blue bloods, as Duke and UNC stole regular season games from each other on their respective home courts. And in true Blue Devil fashion, Duke won four games in four days to win the ACC Tournament title over the Tar Heels, further cementing the best rivalry in college basketball.

Throughout the season, it was hard for the ACC to pick an undisputed king, as Louisville, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia, and even Syracuse and Georgia Tech jockeyed for position in the top 5 of the conference standings. It was a wild ride.

And as usual, the NCAA Selection Committee rewarded the seemingly tough schedule, handing out nine tickets to the Big Dance to teams from the ACC. But after 2-seed Duke fell to 7-seed South Carolina on Sunday night, only one ACC team remains. Here’s looking at UNC.

roy williams

To be fair, it’s hard to quantify a conference’s greatness. Is it more about how many teams get in or how many remain once we get to the Final Four?

The most logical answer is who’s still standing by the time we get to Phoenix . But for all the hoopla and discussion about the ACC, last weekend was about as anticlimactic as it could get.

They’ve got no one to blame but themselves, literally.

After the loss to Michigan, which seems to be a team of destiny, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino told Tracy Wolfson, “All year long we’ve played with A+ effort. Where we’ve struggled are in the mental aspects of the game… We beat ourselves mentally tonight, every loss this year has been the mental parts of the game, not the physical.”

Shout out to the ACC for iron sharpening iron, so much so that eight of its nine knives went so dull that they could no longer cut through first or second halves. Terrible decision-making, bad defense, stalled offense, and mental farts turned the hardwood into the chopping block for the ACC.

They all killed each other in-conference, and quitting time came early for the “superpowers” of the ACC.

In the second round, Virginia got a pink slip after they couldn’t even score 40 against Florida (an SEC team, I mean really guys?), although the Gators did have an early February victory over then-No. 8 Kentucky. Clearly, the SEC were unbothered by the pack line.

Notre Dame ran into a whopper of a defensive unit against West Virginia, equivalent to that last assignment your boss drops on your desk on a Thursday afternoon to be finished by Monday, but there’s mandatory team building all day Friday. They were ruined, finished, foiled, and the Mountaineers kept marching.

FSU… well…They rolled into town like Smokey talking to Craig on the porch in Friday. “It’s Friday, you ain’t got no job, and you ain’t got nothin’ to do.” They let Xavier shoot 56 percent from the field and 65 percent from three. C’mon Mannnn. Must’ve been smellin’ themselves with that 3-seed.

smokey friday

And Duke? Now that’s just embarrassing. With all the hype, talent, and drama this season, Duke had a chance to redeem themselves and prove to the haters that they were for real. They came into the tournament scalding hot, but the Blue Devils couldn’t keep the fire going. And in the end, Frank Martin—wearing that suit—came out looking the best.

The ACC was fun during the regular season—and by no means should we settle for mediocre conference play—but March is about peaking at the right time. And it looks like those dog days of January and February may have stolen the thunder from the ACC.

For every other conference that didn’t get nine bids, these early ACC exits must feel like sweet justice. But there’s still a lot of dancing to do, and in the end, there is only one champion crowned.

For now, UNC is still alive. They’d better hope they’ve got enough left in the tank to carry the conference on their shoulders.

Monica McNutt

Ex-college hooper turned sports person. Life goal: be the voice of a key character in an animated movie, like Crush in Finding Nemo.

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