2024 ACC Tournament:
Saturday Night Title Tilt Matches
Two Of League’s Historical Powers

By David Glenn

North Carolina Sports Network

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Long-time Atlantic Coast Conference basketball fans attending or watching the 2024 ACC Tournament championship game on Saturday (8:30 pm, ESPN) are getting another glimpse of two of the three most successful programs in league history.

North Carolina and NC State are meeting in the title tilt for the seventh time, and the Tar Heels and Wolfpack both can claim sensational levels of success dating back to the ACC’s creation in the 1950s and even beyond.

UNC-NC State ACC Title Games
(1953-2024; with head coaches)

2024—#1 UNC vs. #10 NCSU (Hubert Davis vs. Kevin Keatts)
2007—UNC 89, NC State 80 (Roy Williams-Sidney Lowe)
1997—UNC 64, NC State 54 (Dean Smith-Herb Sendek)
1987—NC State 68, UNC 67 (Jim Valvano-Dean Smith)
1975—UNC 70, NC State 66 (Dean Smith-Norm Sloan)
1968—UNC 87, NC State 50 (Dean Smith-Norm Sloan)
1959—NC State 80, UNC 56 (Everett Case-Frank McGuire)

Although they now make up only 20 percent of the ACC membership, UNC, NC State and Duke — all original members of the conference, of course, dating to the 1953-54 season, and all located in the tight-knit Triangle area of North Carolina — are responsible for almost three-quarters (73 percent) of all ACC men’s basketball championships.

It’s easy to remember the dominance of Carolina and Duke, given their more recent high-level success, but it’s easy to forget that the league’s other most historically successful program is the one just a 30- (from Durham) or 40-minute (from Chapel Hill) drive away, at NC State.

The Triangle trio’s collective numbers are staggering, especially in the modern context of the expanded ACC, which now has 15 members and will have 18 schools starting in 2024-25, with California, SMU and Stanford on the way.

ACC Tournament Titles

19—(All Other Schools Combined)
18—North Carolina
10—NC State

Triangle Schools’ Total=after tonight, 51 of 70 (73%)

The North Carolina-centric theme actually continues with Wake Forest, which is tied with Georgia Tech for the fourth-most ACC titles (four each). Next are Maryland and Virginia (three each), then Florida State (2012), Miami (2013), Notre Dame (2015), South Carolina (1971) and Virginia Tech (2022), which have captured one apiece. The Terrapins and Gamecocks were league members from 1953-2014 and 1953-71, respectively.

Boston College, Clemson (an original ACC member), Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have never won the ACC Tournament.

Even when the conversation is changed to measure ACC regular-season titles (first-place finishes), the same three programs dominate, only in a different order. Meanwhile, thanks to coach Tony Bennett’s ongoing success in Charlottesville, Virginia joins the mix.

ACC Regular-Season Titles
(1954-2024, With Most Recent)

33—North Carolina (2024)
20—Duke (2022)
11—Virginia (2023)
7—NC State (1989)
5—Maryland (2010)
4—Wake Forest (2003)
2—Georgia Tech (1996)
2—Miami (2023)
1—Clemson (1990)
1—Florida State (2020)
1—South Carolina (1970)

When it comes to legendary ACC head coaches, too, there is a Triangle Trifecta of sorts.

Only four long-time leaders — again, all from the three Triangle programs — have managed to win more than one-third of their trips to the ACC Tournament: Duke’s Vic Bubas (40 percent; four of 10 trips from 1960-69), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (38 percent; 15 of 39 trips from 1981-2021), UNC’s Smith (36 percent; 13 of 36 trips from 1962-97) and NC State’s Case (36 percent; four of 11 trips from 1954-64).

Those four men also represent the Mount Rushmore of ACC Tournament champions: Krzyzewski (15 titles), Smith (13), Bubas (four) and Case (four). Next on the list are Georgia Tech’s Bobby Cremins, NC State’s Sloan and UNC’s Williams, with three titles each.

Duke’s Bill Foster (two of six from 1975-80) and UNC’s Bill Guthridge (one of three from 1998-2000) won exactly one-third of their head coaching trips to the ACC Tournament. Guthridge, of course, also was a part of 13 additional ACC championships, as Smith’s long-time assistant.