Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Duke Blame Game; Is Expansion the ACC's Problem?

OK, 4 days is enough. Talk Radio and water cooler talk for 4 days has mostly been about what went wrong with Duke. Let me be the first to say, West Virginia did have a bit to do with it. They played a good game and hit shots, and it was as much about WVU winning as it was about Duke losing. But, in ACC country, everyone is rushing to assign blame for Duke's 2nd straight year of failing to make it to the sweet 16. I'll throw a few out there that I've heard:

  • Coach K is too distracted by the olympics
  • Duke can't get a decent big man and can't keep the ones they get (maybe because a short little point guard coaches big men at Duke)
  • Nelson just flat out choked
  • Duke is tired. Not physically, but mentally tired for some reason.
At this point, I have no idea. To quote Barack Obama on why he picked the Heels over Duke: "I love Duke, but let's face it, they don't got the horses this year". OK, enough blame. Let's move on. Go Heels, Go Wildcats.


Duke aside, the ACC's NCAA performance has been poor for a few years now. I keep coming back in my mind to expansion and how that could be impacting things. Obviously the Big East expanded in reaction to the ACC raiding 3 of their teams, but the difference is they pulled in teams that are traditionally very strong in basketball. The ACC pulled in 3 schools that are traditionally very poor basketball schools. But, oddly enough, while those new schools have under-performed badly in football, they've actually done quite well in basketball. BC is in a rebuilding year, but have had quality basketball teams in the past few. Miami made the NCAA this year, and VaTech was one of the last teams out. So how can you argue that expansion has been the cause of ACC woes? I'm not sure you can, but I'll try.

  1. Without a doubt over the last 3 decades the ACC has been the premiere basketball conference in the country, by any measure you want to choose. Playing in the ACC has always had a certain amount of prestige for players. With expansion, it is suddenly a little easier as a player to play in the ACC. I'm not saying the new schools take bad players, but at a minimum it opens up more slots. I'm not even saying that someone like Miami is getting kids that would have gone to another ACC school before, but just saying it is a little easier to get into the ACC now and maybe it has lost a little of the prestige.
  2. Duke and UNC are royalty in college basketball. For many players, if you can't play for either of those schools, you might be interested at least in playing at a school that plays them twice a year. I firmly believe that over the years, that idea has helped the remaining ACC schools. Come play at NC State and you'll play on National TV four times a year against Duke and Carolina. Only guess what, now it isn't always twice a year. For a few years, NC State only got Duke once. You couldn't promise an incoming freshman that he'll get to play in Cameron 4 times. Could that factor actually be hurting recruiting at the other ACC schools?
  3. The ACC now has unbalanced scheduling. VaTech is a good example this year. They played Clemson, Duke, and UNC only once each this year. You can make the argument that this really helped them build a winning conference record. But possibly more importantly, this also robbed them of 3 chances at a season making "big win" which might have put them into the tournament.
OK, that's all I can come up with. Not sure if I believe it, but I'd certainly love to understand and explain what is wrong with the ACC.