It’s hard to believe, but college basketball season starts in just a couple of days. As part of my ACC basketball preview, we’ll take a look at the coming season (in a later post). But first, I look at the past in this post and another one to come. Which school has the ACC’s best team of the century? To decide that, I have first picked the best team since 2000 from each of the 15 ACC schools (some of the newer members will be represented by a team that played in another conference, particularly Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh). Next, with the help of whatifsports.com, I will simulate tournament play among the teams. (Instead of using the double-bye format that will be used by the ACC tournament starting this year, I will simply give the top seed a first-round bye.) I’ve chosen tournament play by an online simulator, instead of simply picking the best team, because this way there can be upsets, like a real basketball tournament. Here are the teams, in seeded order:
1. 2009 North Carolina; tough call between the 2009 and 2005 UNC teams, but this team won the national championship game in a blowout, and wasn’t even threatened in the NCAA Tournament.
2. 2001 Duke; like the Tar Heels, a tough call for Duke between their 2010 and 2001 championship teams. This team, however, began and ended the season as the top-ranked team in the nation, then backed it up with a title.
3. 2003 Syracuse; led by Carmelo Anthony, this is the only national championship team at Syracuse (hard to believe, but true)
4. 2002 Maryland; an often under-rated team, which won Gary Williams’ lone national title. Closest game in the NCAA Tournament was 90-82.
5. 2009 Pittsburgh; one of the best teams I’ve ever seen that didn’t make the Final Four (lost in regional final), 15-3 in a tough Big East.
6. 2013 Miami; won the ACC regular season and tournament titles, and reached the Sweet 16.
7. 2012 Florida State; led by Michael Snaer, with a knack for buzzer-beaters, and won the school’s only ACC Tournament title.
8. 2004 Georgia Tech; arguable they should be higher, lost to UConn in the national title game in what was easily Paul Hewitt’s best team.
9. 2005 Wake Forest; this was Chris Paul’s final collegiate season, and Wake’s first-ever top-ranked team. Enough said.
10. 2011 Notre Dame; led by Luke Hansbrough, the Irish finished 2nd in Big East play.
11. 2007 Virginia; Sean Singletary had one of the better seasons I’ve ever seen a guard play, and led the Cavaliers to a 2nd-place regular season finish.
12. 2006 Boston College; lost the ACC Tournament final by just 2 in their inaugural ACC season, before losing to top-seeded Villanova by 1 in the Sweet Sixteen.
13. 2013 NC State; tough call between 2013, 2005, and 2004, but this team had the most talent and had signature wins against Duke and North Carolina.
14. 2007 Virginia Tech; beat North Carolina twice and Duke once on their way to a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
15. 2008 Clemson; ranked as high as 15th, and took North Carolina to OT twice in the regular season before losing to them in the ACC Tournament final.
Now, let’s look at how the tournament played out:
First Round (2009 North Carolina has first round bye)
2005 Wake Forest 88, 2004 Georgia Tech 85 (upset)
2002 Maryland 95, 2013 NC State 67
2009 Pittsburgh 77, 2006 Boston College 68
2001 Duke 105, 2008 Clemson 59
2011 Notre Dame 81, 2012 Florida State 69 (upset)
2003 Syracuse 93, 2007 Virginia Tech 90, 2OT (Syracuse’s Jeremy McNeil hit a 3-point buzzer-beater in OT to stay alive)
2007 Virginia 75, 2013 Miami 70 (upset)
2009 North Carolina 100, 2005 Wake Forest 94
2002 Maryland 83, 2009 Pittsburgh 81 (Tahj Holden hit a go-ahead basket with :01 left)
2001 Duke 89, 2011 Notre Dame 80.
2007 Virginia 75, 2003 Syracuse 73 (upset)
2009 North Carolina 96, 2002 Maryland 82
2001 Duke 90, 2007 Virginia 44
2001 Duke 94, 2009 North Carolina 73
So, it turns out the best team of this century, at least so far, is the 2001 Duke team, with the starting 5 of Jason Williams, Chris Duhon, Mike Dunleavy, Nate James, and Shane Battier. By the way, how about that 2007 Virginia team, beating two teams that were clearly better than them including the 2003 Syracuse team with Carmelo Anthony that won the National Championship. Then, of course, they were beaten by 46 at the hands of the eventual tournament winner.