Big Four Hegemony Over?

Growing up as an ACC fan outside of North Carolina, I quickly learned to resent the Big Four schools. I mostly hated UNC, of course, but I was also really annoyed at how the conference really only seemed to exist to serve the schools in North Carolina. The ACC Tournament was nearly always there, players from those schools littered the all-conference teams and the media focused on Tobacco Road. It felt like Virginia, Maryland, Clemson and Georgia Tech were just around to fill things out a bit, like we were part of the club, but still couldn’t go into the VIP Lounge in the back.
Over the years, I grew to learn that things weren’t really artificially tilted toward the Old North State. Yes, North Carolina was and still is the main focus, but that’s for a very good reason – the conference (and I’m talking basketball here) has been dominated by those four teams. In addition, it’s served the ACC very well over the years to have this geographic and cultural center. It’s here in North Carolina where the ACC matters the most and where the league’s heart truly lies. Expansion has diluted things, but make no mistake, the ACC still revolves around the Big Four.
But the absolute dominance might be wavering. David Glenn wrote a brief piece today echoing a fact someone told me last week – this could be the first year in ACC history that fewer than two Big Four teams will finish in the top four of the ACC standings. That will happen unless Boston College, Virginia or Virginia Tech slip and Duke moves up. Of course, that’s probably exactly what’s going to happen.
If things do hold like they currently stand, I don’t really think it means much in the long term. For one thing, the ACC simply has more teams now. For a long while, finishing in the top four only meant you were in the top half of the league, and considering that the Big Four made up half (or so) of the ACC, it’s really not that surprising. Hell, UNC alone has only missed being in the top three a handful of times in league history. Also, both Duke and Carolina are still among the nation’s top five programs. They aren’t going anywhere and they’ll be fighting for ACC supremacy for the foreseeable future.
So, non-North Carolina teams, you better resign yourself to more of this:
ACC Men’s Basketball Championships

Duke — 16
North Carolina — 15
N.C. State — 10
Wake Forest — 4
Everyone Else Combined — 8 (Georgia Tech 3, Maryland 3, South Carolina 1, Virginia 1)

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