A year after the ACC and the Triangle’s teams compiled a relatively long list of gripes against the NCAA tournament committee, there won’t be much complaining this time around.
N.C. State made it into the field, successfully playing the scheduling game to beat out Southern Methodist and California and Minnesota and Green Bay for a spot in Dayton, wildly surpassing the preseason expectations for the Wolfpack.
After its win over Duke on Sunday in the ACC championship game, Virginia was given a No. 1 seed, avoiding the snub Miami suffered last year when the Hurricanes won both the regular-season and tournament ACC titles and were bumped to a No. 2.
With N.C. State squeaking in, the ACC sent six teams to the tournament, perhaps not as many as its coaches or athletics directors would like but not a discouraging number in the first year of the 15-team conference.
Duke got to stay close to home in Raleigh, albeit as a No. 3 seed in what appears to be the most fearsome quadrant of the bracket along with undefeated Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan.
While North Carolina slid to a No. 6 seed, the Tar Heels will appreciate the extra day of rest going to a Friday-Sunday site in San Antonio. Most important, they avoided NCAA tournament bete noires Kansas and Creighton, after having to face the Jayhawks in Missouri the past two years.
And N.C. Central, in its first-ever tournament appearance, was given a respectable No. 14 seed, setting up a potential matchup with the Tar Heels if both teams advance. The Eagles, having played at Wichita State and Cincinnati and won at N.C. State, will not be intimidated by Iowa State.
That’s a full plate, for the ACC and the Triangle. All told, not a bad haul, with all four Division I teams making the tournament when 17 states (with a total of 69 teams) were shut out entirely, including Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey.
In the end, the selection committee respected N.C. State’s nonconference schedule and the general strength of the ACC at large, with Pittsburgh receiving a No. 9 seed as well.
That’s how Mark Gottfried set up the Wolfpack’s schedule when he arrived at N.C. State, and he followed that path this season even with a young team that was almost completely retooled around T.J. Warren.
“The selection committee has asked you to play a tough nonconference schedule, take your team on the road, which we did at Cincinnati our second game,” Gottfried said Saturday. “Went to Tennessee and won. I think our league is a great league. I hope we don’t get penalized with our record in the league.”
The Wolfpack was not.
Nor was Virginia, which had bad losses to Green Bay and Tennessee but was still recognized for its work in conference play, beating all 14 of the other ACC teams and sweeping the titles.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had bigger issues on his mind after his team’s loss Sunday, but he argued forcefully on behalf of the ACC on Saturday, saying it deserved at least as many teams in the tournament as the Atlantic 10. (ACC commissioner John Swofford, currently negotiating with the Atlantic 10 for the rights to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in 2017, must have cringed at Krzyzewski’s choice of head-to-head comparison.)
The A-10 got six bids. The ACC got six bids. Mission accomplished, at least in terms of selection. Now, on to what really matters.
The ACC hasn’t had a team in the Final Four since 2010, its longest drought since 1958-61. If it really wants more respect on Selection Sunday, ending that skid is the best way to get it.