ACC And The Final Four

For those of us still licking our wounds after a second consecutive ACC-free Final Four, Barry Jacob’s article today at the DBR is a soothing salve.
He looks back the FF since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams. And for those who say that 1985 is probably an arbitrary year picked to make the ACC look good, you’re wrong. Carolina won the whole thing in 1982 and NC State did the same in ’83. Carolina lost in the finals in ’81 and UVA made the Final Four in both ’81 and ’84’. Jacobs should have gone back to 1980!
For the 64-team years (and yes, I’m ignoring that stupid play-in game that makes it 65 teams now), the ACC still leads the next best conference (the Big Ten) 21 to 16. Duke and Carolina alone have more than any other conference.
Speaking of Carolina, this chart shows something that’s been bugging me a lot recently. Back in the day, folks used to joke about how Dean Smith always came up short in the tournament despite having the best talent in the country. That talk cooled a bit when he won in ’82 and again in ’93, but it’s a stigma he still carries with some people. Mike Krzyzewski used to have the same label. He made Final Four after Final Four in the late 80’s but couldn’t break through until 1992. Even now, after building the best NCAA resume this side of John Wooden, folks claim K has lost his touch since Duke hasn’t been to the final weekend in three whole years.
But the current favorite target of snarky comments is Roy Williams. When he was at Kansas, everyone joked about how they always choked in the tourney. Williams built the greatest overall winning percentage of any coach in the country, but that didn’t really count, because anyone could win at Kansas. Then, he came to Carolina and promptly won a title in his second year. But those weren’t really his players and besides, winning at Carolina is even easier than Kansas, right? Roy Williams hasn’t proven anything! He didn’t make the Final Four this year with the most talented team in the country! What a choker! A rube!
OK, that’s enough sarcasm for one paragraph. Now, take a look at Barry’s table. Since 1985 (and Roy didn’t take over at Kansas until 1988 and even then, he inherited NCAA sanctions), Roy has taken his teams to a combined five Final Fours – four at Kansas and one with UNC. Only three schools have hit the promised land more than that and two of them are the very teams he coached! Sure, it’s easy to win at Kansas, but somehow Williams has managed to make the final weekend more times than Kentucky, Indiana, Syracuse, Arizona, UCLA, Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, UNLV, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville or any other basketball power you can name outside of Duke or UNC. Isn’t it easy to recruit and win at all of those schools? Does Kansas really have greater access to talent than those programs?
Hmmmm. Maybe he’s not such a chump. Or maybe every coach is a chump. You can’t have it both ways.
p.s. One more note about the notion that Carolina was the most talented team in the country and should have made the Final Four. Every year, there are a half-dozen or so schools who think they should make it. You have the four #1 seeds and at least two of the #2 seeds. This year, that group didn’t even include Arizona (a team with at least three NBA players), Kentucky or Duke. Considering that the Final Four usually includes only about two or three of those favored six teams, it’s just not unusual for good or even great teams to miss out. It doesn’t mean anything. One year is not a trend, particularly in light of what I wrote above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *