GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 11: Malcolm Delaney #23, Manny Atkins #25 and Tyrone Garland #21 of the Virginia Tech Hokies celebrate their 52-51 victory over the Florida State Seminoles in the quarterfinals of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 11, 2011 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Remember all the talk about the ACC maybe being a three-bid league and falling to the depths of ridicule? Well, they were partly right.
While the rumors of the ACC's demise were exaggerated, the conference is certainly still struggling compared to its illustrious history. The thing is, it isn't much worse than it has been over the past decade. It looks like the ACC will get five bids in the NCAA tournament, unless Boston College can surprise and sneak into the tourney.
Given the vitriol heard earlier in the year, you would've thought that the ACC was in the midst of its worst season ever. But the five bids is actually right on with their average for the past decade, and remember that the conference had as few as four bids just three years ago. Some of that is a little skewed because there are an extra three bids this year, but this definitely wasn't rock bottom for the ACC, especially with the 1-2 punch they have at the top of the league.
While yesterday obviously wasn't the result that Maryland wanted, the conference saw their fair share of good results. Clemson clobbered Boston College, which probably knocks out the Eagles but all-but-guarantees a bid for the Tigers. Virginia Tech beat Florida State by a millisecond, too, which was probably the best result the conference could've asked for: VT got the win they needed, but it was so close that the selection committee would have trouble including one (VT) and not the other (FSU).
Chris Dobbertean over at SBN HQ has the ACC with five teams in the tourney, and Boston College is the first teamout. He has two ACC teams (Duke and UNC) in the top eight seeds. Ditto for Joe Lunardi. And the same goes for Jerry Palm, too. Seeing any other outcome - except maybe VT getting unceremoniously dumped again, which would probably make everyone happy - would be an upset at this point. That's a bit of a mixed bag.
Five bids isn't a great performance for a basketball-rich conference like the ACC. But considering most people were saying that the A-10 and Mountain West were poised to pass the ACC in the number of bids they get, it's not a bad way to finish things up. And hey, they're still way better than the Pac-10, which will probably only get three bids in.
The thing is, the ACC has lacked depth for the past decade, and with conferences like the Big East out there they'll probably never get that back. The ACC is a top-heavy league in comparison, and that might be where their future is. The conference still has a top two that you'd put up against any other conference's; they just need to get some more support up there in the future, like they had when Maryland, N.C. State, or Georgia Tech could be counted to put together a top-15 team between them.
That said, things do appear to be looking up again for the conference. Duke is Duke and UNC is once again UNC. Florida State is recruiting at a high level, Virginia Tech is stockpiling ridiculous talent, and Maryland should be a tourney team again next year. Brad Brownell has done a great job with Clemson, too; it remains to be seen if he can recruit at a Purnell-level, but he did a great job salvaging this season and sneaking in when no one thought they would.
With even non-tourney teams like Virginia and Boston College showing signs of life and exceeding expectations, the ACC appears to be on the way up. What's more, the conference's deadest coaching weight is being cut, meaning the traditionally-solid N.C. State and Georgia Tech are just a good coaching hire away from being relevant again, too.
Is the ACC back? Not at all. In the new, Big East-ruled era, they'll never get back to their former glory. But despite what you heard a few months ago, they're still a top 5 conference in the country, and no, they're not about to get passed by the MWC. Hey, you take what you can get at this point.