ACC In NCAA Tournament:
Sweet 16? Yep, Literally EVERY Year

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

Lately, ACC teams have been winning the national championship almost half the time. That’s a stunning accomplishment.

There are 32 conferences in Division I men’s basketball, yet over the last 15 years, for example, the count reads this way:

Current ACC Members — 6 (42.9 percent)
The Other 31 Leagues Combined — 8 (57.1 percent)

There was no NCAA champion in 2020, of course, because the COVID pandemic led to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament that year. The “Current ACC Members” number above counts Louisville’s title in 2013, one year before the Cardinals’ official ACC entry.

Thanks to Duke (2010, 2015), Louisville (2013), North Carolina (2009, 2017) and Virginia (2019), “current ACC members” have won three of the last eight NCAA Tournaments (37.5 percent), four of the last 10 (40 percent), and six of the last 14 (42.9 percent). Again, that’s well more than one-third of the time, over several recent timeframes.

Even when you stretch the timetable further, the numbers remain amazing.

Going all the way back to 1980, for example, current ACC members have won 16 of 43 NCAA titles; that’s 37.2 percent, from a single league’s current membership, over more than four decades.

As legendary ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale might say, that’s awesome, baby, with a capital “A.”

ACC’s Consistent Sweet 16 Presence Stunning

The backdrop to the ACC’s cut-down-the-nets success includes consistency and variety leading up to the Final Four.

(Please see our Sweet 16 chart, linked immediately below, which includes only teams that were ACC members at the time of their Sweet 16 trip.)

LINK: ACCNCAA19802023Sweet

Fourteen of the 15 current ACC members, for example, have represented the league in the Sweet 16, even though six schools were added to the league only within the last two decades. (The lone exception, Pitt, has been to the Sweet 16 three times in that span but not as a member of the ACC.)

The ACC’s postseason consistency is reflected in the chart, too. Since the elimination of NCAA Tournament bids-per-conference restrictions in the 1970s, there has NEVER been a Sweet 16 held without at least one ACC member as a part of it. Most have included several ACC teams.

The ACC’s high-water mark in Sweet 16 representation came in 2016.

In just its third season with 15 members, the league gobbled up six of those 16 spots by itself, with Duke, Miami, UNC, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia all still standing. Although the Tar Heels and the Orange both advanced to the Final Four, the league’s stunning depth didn’t translate into another title, as Villanova edged the Heels with a buzzer-beater in the championship game.

At the other end of the spectrum, since the elimination of NCAA Tournament bids-per-conference restrictions in the 1970s, there have been only six years when the ACC had only one representative in the Sweet 16: 2007 (UNC), 2008 (UNC), 2010 (Duke), 2014 (Virginia), 2017 (UNC) and 2023 (Miami). The 2010 Blue Devils and 2017 Tar Heels, of course, squashed any “ACC is down” talk during March Madness in those years by going on to win the NCAA title.

Over these last four decades or so, the ACC’s average number of Sweet 16 participants has been roughly three per year.

Clemson, Duke, NC State and UNC all hope to extend that amazing piece of ACC history with winning performances this weekend in the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

As long as one ACC squad survives the weekend, of course, it will remain accurate to say that — in the modern era, at least, meaning over four-plus decades — the NCAA Tournament has never had a Sweet 16 without the ACC being a part of it.


Saturday, March 23
West Region

#1 North Carolina vs. #9 Michigan State
Spectrum Center, Charlotte, N.C.
5:30 pm, CBS

South Region

#11 NC State vs. #14 Oakland
PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pa.
7:10 pm, TBS/truTV

Sunday, March 24
South Region

#4 Duke vs. #12 James Madison
Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
5:15 p.m., CBS

West Region

#6 Clemson vs. #3 Baylor
FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn.
6:10 p.m., TNT