March Madness 2017: ACC left to deal with shock of lopsided losses

Sporting News

ORLANDO, Fla. — As the second-half clock rolled past the seven-minute mark of Florida State’s game vs. Xavier, NBA-bound Seminoles guard Dwayne Bacon slipped through the defense on the perimeter, drove the lane and threw down an impressive dunk.

The Florida State fans at the Amway Center barely reacted. The positive emotions were gone.

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That's because the game was out of hand by then. Florida State entered as the West Region No. 3 seed, and Xavier was the 11 seed. Bacon’s slam cut Xavier’s lead to 20 points, 75-55. Yep, it cut Xavier’s lead to 20 points. The final score was Xavier 91, Florida State 66.

So it’s hard to blame the FSU fans for the lack of enthusiasm after Bacon’s dunk.

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Thing is, they aren’t the only ACC fans who have been emotionally steamrolled by this year’s NCAA Tournament. These have been a pretty disheartening few days for the league as a whole.

More accurately, these have been a stunning few days for the league as a whole.

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The ACC was the best league in college hoops during the regular season. Nobody could challenge that ranking. The top 10 spots in the human polls were stacked with ACC teams, and ACC squads were near the top of the computer metrics, too.

Nine ACC team made the NCAA Tournament, eight as a No. 9 seed or better. Seven of those teams are already gone, and the other two haven't played yet. Duke (a No. 2 seed) and North Carolina (a No. 1 seed) are heavy favorites, but at this point both fan bases have to be at least a little bit concerned after watching their league counterparts fall apart.

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Florida State was blown out while essentially playing at home. (Getty Images)

Yep, this tournament has been an unmitigated disaster for the ACC. Let's take a look at what happened to the departed teams ...

Midwest No. 2 seed Louisville

What happened: The simple way to look at it is this: The Cardinals ran into the Michigan steamroller. The Wolverines were arguably the hottest team in college hoops entering the tournament, and they slipped past Oklahoma State in a thoroughly entertaining opening-round game, 92-91. But it's not like Michigan dominated Louisville. The Cardinals had control of this game, with an eight-point halftime lead and a nine-point advantage (47-38) as the second-half clock rolled under the 14-minute mark.

From there, things fell apart. Michigan rattled off a 25-10 run and took a lead they never relinquished. Louisville's vaunted defensive pressure never really bothered Michigan; the Wolverines finished with only six turnovers and they shot 49.1 percent from the field for the game, including 63.0 in the second half. For all the Cardinals's size, they couldn't stop Michigan big man Moe Wagner, who had 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field.

East No. 5seed Virginia

What happened: After rallying from an early double-digit deficit in the opener against UNC-Wilmington, the Cavaliers held off the upset bid and won 76-71. Then, on the same court just a few hours after Florida State was dismantled by Xavier, the Cavaliers were embarrassed by Florida. The Gators were struggling entering the NCAA Tournament, but they looked like world-beaters Saturday. Buoyed by a 21-0 run that began in the first half and ended in the second, Florida cruised to a shockingly easy 65-39 win.

West No. 5 seed Notre Dame

What happened: The Irish barely survived a spirited upset bid by 12 seed Princeton when a 3-point try in the waning seconds missed. In the second round against West Virginia, the Irish never seemed to find anything resembling the rhythm they had in rolling to the ACC Tournament title game. The Mountaineers controlled the entire game and won 83-71.

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Midwest No. 8 seed Miami (Fla.)

What happened: This one was kind of a stunner, not necessarily in the final result, but how it happened. The Hurricanes raced out to a 17-5 lead to start the game, but a dominating 20-2 run by No. 9 seed Michigan State helped the Spartans take control of the game, and they never relented. Miami lost 78-58.

East No. 9 seed Virginia Tech

What happened: Truthfully, the Hokies are probably the only ACC team that will find anything good in its loss. Buzz Williams’ team played very well, but its opponent was an underseeded Wisconsin team, and the Badgers pulled away late for an 84-74 win. In its next game, of course, Wisconsin stunned No. 1 seed and reigning national champion Villanova.

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South No. 11 seed Wake Forest

What happened: The Demon Deacons slipped into the tournament as a First Four at-large team, then proceeded to allow Kansas State to shoot 66.0 percent from the field — no, really — and score 1.30 points per possession in a 95-88 victory. Yeah.


So … yeah. Pretty much a disaster. The average margin of defeat in those six games that eliminated ACC teams: 16.7 points.

That’s crazy, right? These are six teams that the NCAA Tournament selection committee determined were among the 36 best at-large candidates — and rightly so — but they didn’t exactly played like they belonged. Three of the losses were legitimate blowouts.

The other three were closer, but “closer than a blowout” probably isn’t going to be the ACC’s next conference slogan.

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