The ACC – A Familiar Caste

Ken Pomeroy posted an article where he makes the point that Frank Haith made a mistake by accepting the head basketball position at Miami (and frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with Miami’s choice of him either). Ken’s point is an interesting one. He says that in the ACC, teams at the bottom tend to stay there, and teams at the top stay there. He backs up this proposition with some stats (hint, you’ll need to highlight his table to read it. For some reason, he picked white text on a white background. Ken’s a statistician, not a web guru).
The startling thing to me was seeing the win totals of FSU, Clemson and NC State over the last 13 years. They’re pretty impressively bad. State seems to have finally broken free of their low earth orbit, but even so, the three teams have a total of seven winning records in 13 years. That’s seven out of 39! And of those seven winning records, four were 9-7.
I think a large part of the reason for this apparent caste system isn’t so much the difficulty in moving up, but that a few of the programs stand out. Duke and UNC are pretty much always going to be at or near the top. Yeah, UNC slipped a bit over the last couple of years, but there’s no indication that those years are anything but anomalies. Those two schools are basketball royalty.
On the other hand, both Clemson and Florida State are football schools. They barely notice that they have basketball teams. Yeah, they like to beat Duke and UNC every now and then, but otherwise, their fans care more about spring football.
Think of it this way, at Duke and UNC, if their football team won the national championship (now there’s a hypothetical for you), but the basketball team had a losing record, would the fans be happy? No, they’d be outraged. Now, at FSU and Clemson, if their team won a football championship and their basketball team had a losing record, do you think even one fan would care?
So, there you go, two programs always at the top and two at the bottom. That’s nearly half of the conference. The other five schools tend to bob up and down in the standings, rising and falling like Styrofoam in the sea. Land a Tim Duncan or Juan Dixon and you’re at the top. Get an Ishua Benjamin, and you’re at the bottom.
With the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech, the ACC is getting two more schools like FSU and Clemson. So that’s four teams out of eleven always at or near the bottom. It’s hard to say what that will do with the caste system. Most likely, sheer chance will bust one of those four schools out of the bottom each year, but over time, they will be the doormats.
Welcome to the ACC, Frank Haith.

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