By Ricky Dimon
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, multiple teams from the same conference have advanced to the same Final Four on 22 occasions. Only once have three teams represented the same conference—in 1985, when Villanova, Georgetown, and St. John’s made for a Big East party at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kent. Memphis State, then a member of the Metro Conference, briefly crashed the festivities before Villanova upset Georgetown in an all-Big East championship game.
Could the 2019-20 college basketball season mark the second time that three squads from the same conference reach the promised land? Or could a single conference even sweep all four spots for the first time ever? Okay, probably not; but if one can accomplish such a historic feat, it’s the ACC.
Let’s take a look at the four teams leading the way in a loaded, top-heavy conference.
Only four ACC teams currently find themselves in the top 25 of either the AP or Coaches polls. All four, though, are in the top seven (in the case of the Coaches Poll, ACC teams occupy four of the first six places). It is Duke who is topping both charts. The 5-0 Blue Devils are receiving 52 of 65 first-place votes in the AP Poll and 25 of 32 first-place votes from the coaches. They most recently blasted California by 35 points on Thursday to go along with a season-opening win over then-No. 3 Kansas. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s crew has a showdown with Georgetown on Friday. Our college basketball free picks have you covered for that one and for every other top 25 game in 2019-20.
Having gotten up off the canvas following the recent scandal that led to Rick Pitino’s ouster, Louisville is back in national prominence. In fact, the Cardinals are No. 2 in both polls at the moment with a 5-0 record. Head coach Chris Mack is in his second year at the helm after spending eight seasons at Xavier. Mack’s squad is already 1-0 in the ACC after taking care of Miami (FL) 87-74 earlier this month. Louisville’s talent may not be able to compete with the likes of Duke’s Vernon Carey Jr. and Tre Jones, but Jordan Nwora is a star.
The Tar Heels are fourth in one poll and fifth in the other, swapping places with Kansas in the two rankings. Although UNC has not exactly been dominant so far, it is also 1-0 in the ACC with an 11-point victory over Notre Dame. Freshman Cole Anthony is pouring in 22.8 ppg to go along with 8.0 rpg and 4.5 apg.
Virginia’s title defense is off to a 4-0 start. The Cavaliers predictably lost a lot of talent from last season’s championship roster, but they are once again getting the job done with defense. In their ACC opener, Syracuse finished with a mere 34 points. Veteran Mamadi Diakite is averaging 15.8 ppg and 8.3 rpg.