I freely admit that I am an ACC fan. I grew up in the state of North Carolina. ACC Heartland. Home of the "Big Four." How could I not be?
As a kid, I heard all the stories about Ralph Samson and Virginia, David Thompson and NC State, even the Jordan-led UNC teams that I am just a little too young to remember.
My earliest sports memory of any type is watching the 1983 National Championship game, and asking my father why the guys on the other team were crying.
So yes. I've always been an ACC fan. But that doesn't mean I'm blind in my love. I realize that there are a plethora of exciting conferences and teams outside of the ACC.
The Big 12 has Oklahoma, defending national champion Kansas, and Texas. The Big Ten has Purdue and Michigan State. There's UCLA, Washington and Arizona State from the Pac Ten. The SEC . . . well, never mind about the SEC.
And that's not even mentioning the Big East.
Now there's a dandy of a conference. Powerful, deep, chock full of Final Four contenders. Two Big East teams have already attained the top spot in the rankings this season, and it would not surprise me if one or two others joined that particular club.
All of these conferences are very, very good. Any of them is capable, in any given year, of producing Final Four teams, and national champions.
But there is something special about the ACC.
Critics are quick to argue that ACC proponents rely on the history of the conference to argue its greatness. But truthfully, the conference's history is a big part of what makes it so special.
Following in the footsteps of players like Jordan, Thompson, and Sampson. Going into historic venues like Cameron Indoor Stadium or the Dean Dome. The ACC is a conference of a million stories, legends, and myths.
But it's not just the history that makes it special. Legendary coaches like Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski still prowl the sidelines. Cameron still rocks. And the league still produces champions.
Three times this decade the national champion has come from the ACC. That's more than any other conference. The ACC also produced three champions in the '90s, and two in the '80s. Since 1982, the ACC has produced eight national champions in 27 years. This is not resting on historical significance. This is a trend of excellence.
And it is a trend that does not look to stop any time soon. The ACC currently holds four of the top ten spots in the AP poll, and has had no fewer than two teams in the top ten all season. The most recent rankings by Ken Pomeroy have three ACC teams rated in the top 11. Jeff Sagarin's rankings have four rated in the top 10. Both ratings systems have the ACC ranked as the top conference in the country.
It is a very real possibility that this season's eventual champion will not come from the ACC. All across the country there are very good teams, and some simply phenomenal players. Amazing coaches ply their trades all across the country, not just in the ACC.
But from top to bottom, I do not know of any conference that can match the ACC. Just a few short weeks ago, a team that was predicted to finish in the bottom third of the league knocked off then undefeated and number one UNC. Not long after that, an underrated Virginia Tech team knocked off then-undefeated and number one Wake Forest, who then turned right around and knocked off then No. 1 Duke.
(Did I forget to mention that this season is the first in the history of the ESPN/USA Today poll that three teams from the same conference have been ranked at the top?)
So say what you will about the Big East. I have nothing but respect for that conference, especially this season. But I will take the ACC and take my chances.
Because there's just something special about it. This year, and every year.