After Decades Of Massive March Madness Presence,
ACC Again Scrambling For NCAA Bids, High Seeds

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network
(Updated March 10, 2024)

From 1991-2019, the Atlantic Coast Conference produced at least one #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament 26 times over 29 seasons. Each of the three exceptions (1996, 2003, 2013) to that stunningly successful theme saw the ACC produce two teams that became #2 or #3 seeds in those years.

With the 2023-24 regular season concluded, the ACC looks nothing like that stunning, three-decades-long historical snapshot. In fact, this may be the fourth year in a row (after the COVID cancellation of the 2020 postseason) that the conference fails to produce a #1 seed.

North Carolina and Duke, #7 and #9 in the most recent Associated Press poll, respectively, both have a great shot at a very high seed, but only the regular-season champion Tar Heels (who swept the Blue Devils head-to-head) have a realistic chance to earn one of the four #1 slots, and the Heels may need a victory at this week’s ACC Tournament to make that happen.

Purdue, Connecticut and Houston likely have locked up #1 March Madness seeds. Arizona and Tennessee are among the other strongest contenders, followed by the Tar Heels, Marquette, Baylor and others.

UNC coach Hubert Davis, asked last week about the upcoming postseason, deflected the question.

“I’m not really thinking about that,” Davis said. “You’re just thinking about keeping our eyes straight ahead and focusing on what is real.”

No other ACC team (beyond UNC and Duke) is even close to a Top 25 national ranking, especially with Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia suffering recent losses.

Nevertheless, the ACC still has a chance to match — and, if things somehow go extremely well, exceed — the five NCAA bids it received in both 2022 and 2023.

UNC, Duke and Clemson are NCAA Tournament locks. Wake Forest took huge steps in that direction with its recent triumphs over Duke and Clemson in Winston-Salem, although the Demon Deacons and Virginia remain dangerously close to the bubble.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh and perhaps others still have potential paths to an at-large spot in the 68-team NCAA bracket, with time now running very short for resume-builders.

There’s also an automatic NCAA Tournament bid available for this week’s ACC Tournament champion, of course.

Just two years ago, as the #7 seed at the ACC Tournament, Virginia Tech went from the wrong side of the Selection Sunday bubble to automatic-qualifier status. The Hokies were the lowest seed ever to capture the ACC Tournament, though, and that event has been won by a top-four seed (typically a team that would’ve received an at-large NCAA bid anyway) roughly 90 percent of the time in its 70-year history.

If the ACC ends up with only five NCAA bids (or fewer) again, it would reinforce an alarming trend. The league averaged roughly five bids per season in the 1980s and 1990s, but back then it was only an eight- or nine-team league. Now it’s a 15-team league, and this would mark its third year in a row with only five bids.

The last time the ACC received only three NCAA Tournament invitations was 24 years ago, in 2000, when it was still a nine-team league.

Year — ACC Bids (With Seeds) To NCAA Tournament
2024 — ?
2023 — 5 (UVa-4, Miami-5, Duke-5, NCSU-11, Pitt-11)
2022 — 5 (Duke-2, UNC-8, Miami-10, ND-11, VT-11)
2021 — 7 (FSU-4, UVa-4, Clemson-7, UNC-8, GT-9, VT-10, SU-11)
2020 — no NCAA Tournament (COVID)
2019 — 7 (UVa!!-1, Duke-1, UNC-1, FSU-4, VT-4, Louisville-7, SU-8)
2018 — 9 (UVa-1, Duke-2, UNC-2, Clemson-5, Miami-6, VT-8, FSU-9, NCSU-9, SU-11)
2017 — 9 (UNC!!-1, Duke-2, Louisville-2, FSU-3, ND-5, UVa-5, Miami-8, VT-9, WF-11)
2016 — 7 (UNC-1, UVa-1, Miami-3, Duke-4, ND-6, Pitt-10, SU-10)
2015 — 6 (Duke!!-1, UVa-2, ND-3, Louisville-4, UNC-4, NCSU-8)
2014 — 6 (UVa-1, Duke-3, SU-3, UNC-6, Pitt-9, NCSU-12)

NOTE: Bolded team = made Final Four; !! = NCAA champion.

Below are our revised ACC power rankings, limited for now to the seven schools with the best shots at the 2024 Big Dance, along with a familiar reminder. These are NOT predictions of future results/standings but rather a reflection of the teams’ “body of work” in games already played (through March 10).

1. North Carolina (25-6, 17-3 ACC)

Head Coach: Hubert Davis (53, third season, 1 NCAA Tournament)
Best Wins: 100-92 vs. Tennessee, 84-79 at Duke, 93-84 vs. Duke, 65-55 at Clemson, 81-69 over Oklahoma (n), 54-44 at UVa, 85-64 vs. Wake Forest, 70-57 at Pitt
Losses: 87-76 to UConn (n), 87-83 to Kentucky (n), 80-76 vs. Clemson, 83-81 to Villanova in OT (n), 86-79 at Syracuse, 74-73 at Georgia Tech
ACC Tournament seed/opener: #1; VT/FSU winner (noon Thursday)
BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 11/8/5/7
Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 26/5
Most Starts: PG Elliot Cadeau, G RJ Davis, G Cormac Ryan, F Harrison Ingram, C Armando Bacot
Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (2 seed)

If UNC can follow its first-place conference finish with an ACC Tournament title, the team could grab a #1 NCAA seed. Interestingly, as the program with the third-most national championships (behind only UCLA-11 and Kentucky-eight), the Tar Heels have captured all six of their NCAA titles as one of the four favorites. Their 1957 squad entered the Big Dance undefeated (27-0), before the NCAA field was seeded, and each of their other five title teams (1982, 1993, 2005, 2009, 2017) carried a #1 seed into the event.

2. Duke (24-7, 15-5 ACC)

Head Coach
: Jon Scheyer (36, second season, 1 NCAA Tournament)
Best Wins: 78-70 over Baylor (n), 72-71 vs. Clemson, 74-65 over Michigan State (n), 73-48 over UVa, 77-69 vs. Wake Forest, 75-53 at Pitt, 77-67 at Virginia Tech
Losses: 78-73 vs Arizona, 93-84 at UNC, 84-79 vs. UNC, 83-79 at Wake Forest, 80-76 vs. Pitt, 80-75 at Arkansas, 72-68 at Georgia Tech
ACC Tournament seed/opener: #2; NCSU/Louisville-Syracuse survivor (7 pm Thursday)
BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 7/7/15/10
Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 7/23
Most Starts: PG Tyrese Proctor, G Jeremy Roach, G Jared McCain, F Mark Mitchell, F Kyle Filipowski
Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (3 seed)

The Blue Devils are 19-4 in their last 23 games, but their sweep at the hands of rival UNC likely will prevent them from surging much further up the NCAA seed ladder, regardless of what happens at the ACC Tournament. Four of Duke’s five NCAA titles — all under Mike Krzyzewski — came as a #1 seed; the other (1991) came as a #2 seed. Right now, the Devils have only three victories this season over NCAA Tournament “locks” (Baylor, Clemson, Michigan State), so their performance in D.C. probably will be scrutinized for seeding purposes.

3. Clemson (21-10, 11-9 ACC)

Head Coach: Brad Brownell (55, 14th season, 3 NCAA Tournaments)
Best Wins: 80-76 at UNC, 85-77 at Alabama, 74-66 over TCU (n), 72-67 vs. South Carolina, 85-68 vs. Boise State, 79-70 at Pitt, 69-62 vs. Pitt, 77-68 at Syracuse, 90-75 vs. Syracuse
Losses: 72-71 at Duke, 65-55 vs. UNC, 81-76 at Wake Forest, 66-65 vs. UVa, 87-72 at Virginia Tech, 95-82 at Miami, 79-77 at Memphis, 78-77 vs. NC State, 69-62 at Notre Dame, 93-90 vs. Georgia Tech in OT
ACC Tournament seed/opener: #6; BC-Miami winner (9:30 pm Wednesday)
BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 23/24/14/27
Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 21/57
Most Starts: PG Chase Hunter, G Joe Girard, F Chauncey Wiggins, F Ian Schieffelin, F PJ Hall
Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (6 seed)

The Tigers are only the #6 seed at the ACC Tournament, but don’t let that fool you. First, they already have five victories over surefire NCAA Tournament teams (UNC, Alabama, TCU, South Carolina, Boise State); the wins over the #7 Tar Heels and the #16 Crimson Tide were on the road(!), and those are extremely powerful data points in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Second, always remember that committee members absolutely, positively do NOT care about any team’s placement in the conference standings; they look at each team’s entire body of work. If you look back just at ACC history, you’ll see many examples of teams lower in the standings being invited (e.g., sixth-place NC State last year) and teams higher in the standings (e.g., third-place Clemson last year) being left out.

4. Virginia (22-9, 13-7 ACC)

Head Coach: Tony Bennett (54, 15th season, 9^ NCAA Tournaments)
Best Wins: 66-65 at Clemson, 73-70 over Florida (n), 49-47 vs. Wake Forest, 59-47 vs. Texas A&M, 65-57 vs. Virginia Tech
Losses: 73-48 at Duke, 54-44 vs. UNC, 65-41 to Wisconsin (n), 66-47 at Wake Forest, 74-63 vs. Pitt, 75-41 at Virginia Tech, 76-60 at NC State, 77-54 at Memphis, 76-54 at Notre Dame
ACC Tournament seed/opener: #3; BC/Miami-Clemson survivor (9:30 pm Thursday)
BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 52/67/36/51
Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 188/8
Most Starts: PG Reece Beekman, G Isaac McKneely, G Andrew Rohde, F Ryan Dunn, F Jordan Minor
Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament bubble (“Last Four In”)

It’s a good thing the Cavaliers posted a nonconference win over Florida way back in November, because they’ve ended up with a truly unusual resume that’s well short of a “sure thing,” especially because their other high-profile nonconference victim, Texas A&M, since has struggled to an 18-13 mark and its own “bubble” status. UVa’s only other victory this season over a surefire NCAA Tournament team was its 66-65 road win over Clemson. Meanwhile, although nine losses at this point isn’t a troubling number itself, the Cavs’ enormous margins of defeat in almost all of those setbacks (mainly because of anemic offensive performances) have been truly bizarre.


5. Wake Forest (19-12, 11-9 ACC)

Head Coach: Steve Forbes (58, fourth season, 0 NCAA Tournaments)
Best Wins: 83-79 vs. Duke, 81-76 vs. Clemson, 82-71 vs. Florida, 66-47 vs. UVa, 91-58 vs. Pitt, 86-63 vs. Virginia Tech, 86-82 vs. Miami, 99-70 vs. Syracuse
Losses: 85-64 at UNC, 77-69 at Duke, 49-47 at UVa, 77-70 to Utah (n), 77-72 at Pitt, 86-80 to LSU in OT (n), 80-77 at Georgia, 87-76 at Virginia Tech, 83-76 at NC State, 87-82 at FSU, 70-65 at Notre Dame, 70-69 vs. Georgia Tech
ACC Tournament seed/opener: #5; ND-GT winner (2:30 pm Wednesday)
BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 29/26/50/37
Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 27/47
Most Starts: PG Boopie Miller, G Hunter Sallis, G Cameron Hildreth, F Andrew Carr, C Efton Reid
Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament bubble (“First Four Out”)

The conspiracy theories have been running wild over the Demon Deacons’ NCAA Tournament bubble status — the Bracketologists and/or the Selection Committee are biased against the ACC, etc. — but there was a much simpler, more intelligent explanation: for a LONG time, and perhaps even now, Wake Forest simply didn’t have enough quality wins. No data point is more important to the Selection Committee or the Bracketologists than quality wins, and before their recent triumphs over Duke and Clemson in Winston-Salem, the Deacons had at most only two: against Florida and Virginia (both also at home). The Deacs’ next-best victories — over Pitt, Virginia Tech, Miami and Syracuse (again, all at home) — just don’t move the needle much, and they probably won’t unless one or more of those teams finish strongly. Once Wake finally posted by far its best win of the season, its resume immediately got infinitely more respect, although more recent losses to Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech (at home!) certainly didn’t help matters. Could a possible Wake-Pitt quarterfinal matchup at the ACC Tournament on Thursday be an elimination game for both ACC and NCAA purposes?

6. Pittsburgh (21-10, 12-8 ACC)

Head Coach: Jeff Capel (49, sixth season, 1 NCAA Tournament)
Best Wins: 80-76 at Duke, 74-63 at UVa, 77-72 vs. Wake Forest, 67-64 at NC State, 79-64 vs. Virginia Tech, 81-73 vs. NC State
Losses: 70-57 at UNC, 75-53 at Duke, 69-62 at Clemson, 79-70 vs. Clemson, 86-71 to Florida (n), 91-58 at Wake Forest, 81-73 at Syracuse, 72-68 at Miami, 69-58 vs. Syracuse,  71-64 vs. Missouri
ACC Tournament seed/opener: #4; ND/GT-Wake Forest survivor (2:30 pm Thursday)
BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 33/46/56/44
Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 35/59
Most Starts: G Carlton Carrington, G Jaland Lowe, F Zack Austin, F Blake Hinson, C Federiko Federiko
Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament bubble (“First Four Out”)

The Panthers are still in this picture mainly because they have two absolutely brilliant victories (at Duke, at UVa), the latter of which ended the nation’s longest home winning streak at 23 games. It wouldn’t hurt Pitt’s case if Wake Forest finishes well, because that would give the Panthers another tournament-caliber win and take some of the edge off their ugly (91-58) loss in Winston-Salem. Weighing down Pitt’s resume, though, are a pair of losses to middling Syracuse and a home defeat to lowly Missouri (8-23, 0-18 SEC).

7. Syracuse (20-11, 11-9 ACC)

Head Coach: Adrian “Red” Autry (52, first season, 0 NCAA Tournaments)
Best Wins: 86-79 vs. UNC, 69-58 at Pitt, 87-83 at NC State, 84-71 over Virginia Tech, 81-73 vs. Pitt, 83-63 over Oregon (n), 77-65 vs. NC State
Losses: 73-56 to Tennessee (n), 103-67 at UNC, 86-66 at Duke, 90-75 at Clemson, 77-68 vs. Clemson, 76-57 to Gonzaga (n), 84-62 at UVa, 99-70 at Wake Forest, 80-75 at BC, 65-60 at Georgia Tech, 85-69 vs. FSU
ACC Tournament seed/opener: #7; NCSU-Louisville winner (7 pm Wednesday)
BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 98/78/42/79
Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 87/87
Most Starts: PG Judah Mintz, G JJ Starling, G Justin Taylor, F Chris Bell, F Maliq Brown
Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (well outside bubble)

Although the Orange tied for fifth place in the ACC standings, they have a glaring hole on their resume: not enough high-quality wins. Their home victory over UNC last month provided a big lift, and they’re 4-1 in their last five games, but they missed a golden opportunity at Clemson on Tuesday. Realistically speaking, they must upgrade their body of work with multiple high-caliber wins at the ACC Tournament to become a legitimate at-large candidate on Selection Sunday.

^ – also would have coached in 2020 NCAA Tournament (cancelled/COVID)

NOTE: (n) = neutral court; vs. = home game; efficiency rankings from