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

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network
(Updated Feb. 25, 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 only two weeks remaining in the 2023-24 regular season, 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.

Duke and North Carolina, #8 and #10 in the most recent Associated Press poll, respectively, both have a great shot at a very high seed, but either would need a very strong finish to earn one of the four #1 slots. No other ACC team is even close to a Top 25 national ranking right now, although Clemson or perhaps Wake Forest could get there with a sizzling late-season run.

Nevertheless, the ACC appears positioned to at least match — and perhaps exceed — the five NCAA bids it received in 2022 and 2023.

UNC, Duke and Clemson are NCAA Tournament locks. Wake Forest took a huge step in that direction with its 83-79 triumph over Duke on Saturday in Winston-Salem. Virginia is dangerously close to the bubble but has a chance at another signature victory with its visit to Duke on March 2.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh still has a potential path (winning at Clemson on Tuesday would help a lot) to an at-large spot in the 68-team bracket known as March Madness, and several others (i.e., Virginia Tech, NC State, Syracuse) still could join the conversation with a spectacular late-season run.

There’s also an automatic NCAA Tournament bid available for the 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 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.

Year — ACC Bids (With Seeds) To NCAA Tournament

2024 — ?
2023 — 5 (UVa-4, Miami-5, Duke-5, NCSU-11, Pitt-11)
2022 — 5 (Duke-2UNC-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 six 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 Feb. 25).

1. North Carolina (21-6, 13-3 ACC)

Head Coach: Hubert Davis (53, third season, 1 NCAA Tournament)

Best Wins: 100-92 vs. Tennessee, 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

Remaining Regular-Season Games: Miami (2/26), NC State (3/2), Notre Dame (3/5), at Duke (3/9)

BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 11/8/3/9

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 24/8

Most Starts: PG Elliot Cadeau, G RJ Davis, G Cormac Ryan, F Harrison Ingram, C Armando Bacot

Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (2 seed)

With a strong finish, UNC could grab a #1 seed, but an upcoming trip to #8 Duke makes “running the table” in its four remaining regular-season games a difficult task. Interestingly, as the program with the third-most NCAA titles (behind only UCLA-11 and Kentucky-eight), the Tar Heels have captured all six of their NCAA championships 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 (21-6, 12-4 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), 77-69 vs. Wake Forest, 75-53 at Pitt, 77-67 at Virginia Tech

Losses: 78-73 vs Arizona, 93-84 at UNC, 83-79 at Wake Forest, 80-76 vs. Pitt, 80-75 at Arkansas, 72-68 at Georgia Tech

Remaining Regular-Season Games: Louisville (2/28), UVa (3/2), NC State (3/4), UNC (3/9)

BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 10/9/15/11

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 7/26

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 16-3 in their last 19 games, with major challenges ahead versus desperate Virginia (home) and first-place UNC (home), so they certainly could continue their recent climb up the NCAA Tournament seed ladder with a strong finish, but they also could drop a few lines if they struggle down the stretch. 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 down the stretch will be scrutinized for seeding purposes.

3. Clemson (19-8, 9-7 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), 79-70 at Pitt, 72-67 vs. South Carolina, 85-68 vs. Boise State, 77-68 at Syracuse

Losses: 72-71 at Duke, 65-55 vs. UNC, 66-65 vs. UVa, 87-72 at Virginia Tech, 95-82 at Miami, 79-77 at Memphis, 78-77 vs. NC State, 93-90 vs. Georgia Tech in OT

Remaining Regular-Season Games: Pitt (2/27), at Notre Dame (3/2), Syracuse (3/5), at Wake Forest (3/9)

BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 23/24/9/24

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 19/52

Most Starts: PG Chase Hunter, G Joe Girard, F Chauncey Wiggins, F Ian Schieffelin, F PJ Hall

Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (5 seed)

The Tigers are only fifth in the ACC standings right now, but don’t let that fool you. First, they already have five victories over surefire or very likely NCAA Tournament teams (UNC, Alabama, TCU, South Carolina, Boise State); the wins over the #10 Tar Heels and the #13 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) being left out.

4. Wake Forest (18-9, 10-6 ACC)

Head Coach: Steve Forbes (58, fourth season, 0 NCAA Tournaments)

Best Wins: 83-79 vs. Duke, 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, 83-76 at NC State, 87-82 at FSU

Remaining Regular-Season Games: at Notre Dame (2/27), at Virginia Tech (3/2), Georgia Tech (3/5), Clemson (3/9)

BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 22/20/32/25

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 22/33

Most Starts: PG Boopie Miller, G Hunter Sallis, G Cameron Hildreth, F Andrew Carr, C Efton Reid

Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (10 seed)

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, 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 83-79 triumph over Duke on Saturday, the Deacons had only two: against Florida and Virginia (both in Winston-Salem). The Deacs’ next-best victories — over Pitt, Virginia Tech, Miami and Syracuse (also all at home) — just don’t move the needle, and they probably won’t unless one or more of those teams finish strongly. Now that Wake finally has posted by far its best win of the season, its resume will get infinitely more respect, including from those who actually matter.

5. Virginia (20-8, 11-6 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: 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

Remaining Regular-Season Games: at BC (2/28), at Duke (3/2), Georgia Tech (3/9)

BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 48/67/38/48

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 188/9

Most Starts: PG Reece Beekman, G Isaac McKneely, G Andrew Rohde, F Ryan Dunn, F Jordan Minor

Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament (11 seed)

It’s a good thing the Cavaliers posted two nonconference wins over likely/possible NCAA Tournament teams (Florida, Texas A&M) way back in November, because they’ve ended up with a truly unusual resume that’s well short of a “sure thing,” especially because the Aggies since have struggled to a 15-12 mark. Heading into a huge March 2 game at Duke, UVa’s only other victory this season over a surefire NCAA Tournament team was its 66-65 road win over Clemson. Meanwhile, although eight losses at this point isn’t a troubling number itself, the Cavs’ enormous margins of defeat in most of those losses (mainly because of anemic offensive performances) have been truly bizarre.

6. Pittsburgh (18-9, 9-7 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

Losses: 70-57 at UNC, 75-53 at Duke, 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

Remaining Regular-Season Games: at Clemson (2/27), at BC (3/2), FSU (3/5), NC State (3/9)

BPI/KenPom/KPI/NET Team Rankings (of 362): 36/54/66/46

Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings (of 362): 56/58

Most Starts: PG Carlton Carrington, G Ishmael Leggett, F Zack Austin, F Blake Hinson, C Federiko Federiko

Current Postseason Projection: NCAA Tournament bubble

The Panthers are still in this picture in part 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, and in part because they have at least one more regular-season shot (at Clemson) at another signature win. It wouldn’t hurt Pitt’s case if Wake Forest continues to finish 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 (8-19, 0-14 SEC).

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

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