The 2013-14 college basketball season was supposed to be the time when the ACC would return to its spot as the top conference in the country.
With Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh joining the conference, and many promising young teams looking to take the next step forward, there was a possibility the ACC could have as many as nine NCAA tournament teams.
It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
Many ACC teams have struggled in games against marquee opponents, and the conference doesn’t appear to be nearly as strong as we thought it would be.
As of now, it looks like the following five teams will be the only ones to represent the league in the Big Dance.
At 9-0, No. 4 Syracuse has been the most impressive team in the ACC and one of the most impressive teams in the country.
C.J. Fair is showing why he was the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, averaging 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and point guard Tyler Ennis is one of the most underrated freshmen in college basketball.
The 2-3 zone defense should be very difficult for ACC teams that will be facing it for the first time, and the Orange should be the favorites to win the league based on the first part of the season.
And once Syracuse reaches the NCAA tournament, this appears to be a team with the talent to get back to another Final Four.
Duke might have the most talented player in the country in Jabari Parker, but this is still a team searching for an identity.
Although Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood have been terrific for the Blue Devils, Quinn Cook needs to become more consistent, and Rasheed Sulaimon needs to find his place with this year’s squad.
There’s no question Duke will be an NCAA tournament team, but the standard for Mike Krzyzewski’s program is much higher than simply reaching the tournament.
In order for the Blue Devils to make a successful postseason run, the defense and rebounding need to improve significantly, and the scoring must become more balanced.
While Pittsburgh has yet to play a ranked opponent this season, it’s hard to argue against the Panthers’ 9-0 record.
Jamie Dixon’s club has been dominant to start the season, winning every game by at least nine points.
Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, two senior leaders for Pittsburgh, have stepped up and are providing that physical, tough mentality that has become synonymous with the program over the years.
Add in 6’8”, 245-pound freshman Michael Young, who is continuing to develop and become more comfortable, and the Panthers should be in good position for a spot in the NCAA tournament by the end of the season.
North Carolina has been the toughest team to figure out in the country this season.
The Tar Heels have a neutral-site win over Louisville and road win over Michigan State, but they also have losses to Belmont and UAB.
Those quality wins will be huge at the end of the season if UNC continues to struggle with consistency and finds itself on the bubble for reaching the NCAA tournament.
However, Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks are all very promising young players, and the Heels will get a huge lift if P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald are able to return to the court.
On paper, this is likely the most talented team Tony Bennett has had during his tenure as head coach at Virginia.
Joe Harris was one of the best players in the ACC last season, and the Cavaliers have a talented supporting cast around him
Unfortunately for UVA, defenses have focused on stopping Harris this season and the Cavaliers continue to have issues in late-game situations, which have already led to two bad losses.
Virginia is a team that should reach the NCAA tournament, but this is a group that should have much higher expectations than just getting in the tournament.