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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Coach K says the new-look ACC will be the best conference of all time. Is he right?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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At the end of Thursday's news conference formally announcing his return as U.S. men's national team coach, Mike Krzyzewski made a brief but intriguing comment sure to spark debate.

Asked if the opportunity to coach in the NBA still intrigues him, Krzyzewski explained he is happy at Duke, especially because of the challenge the revamped ACC will provide.

"I love what's happening with our conference," Krzyzewski said. "We're going to be a 10-bid conference. We're going to be the best conference in the history of the game. It's exciting to be part of that."

The ACC will certainly improve dramatically thanks to the addition of Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame next season and Louisville the following year, but Krzyzewski's suggestion it will be the best league of all time is a bit more dubious.

Don't forget the powerful Big East produced three Final Four teams in the same season during its Chris Mullin-Patrick Ewing heyday in 1985 and sent two different schools to the Final Four two years later. Or that the more recent version of the Big East earned three No. 1 seeds in 2009 and landed a record 11 NCAA tournament bids in 2011, with its ninth-place team capturing the national championship. Heck, you could argue this may not even be the strongest incarnation of the ACC considering the caliber of the league before it added Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech in a bid to improve in football.

For this upcoming era of ACC basketball to compare favorably, the league will need not only Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Louisville to remain powerhouses but some of its lower-echelon programs to step up in class.

Georgia Tech faded from national relevance late in Paul Hewitt's tenure and has yet to fully recover so far under Brian Gregory. Wake Forest is in the midst of one of its worst periods in program history under embattled coach Jeff Bzdelik. Boston College hasn't made the NCAA tournament in four years or won an NCAA game in six. And football-first Virginia Tech, Clemson and Miami have been erratic at best, aside from the Hurricanes' brilliant but perhaps short-lived success this past season.

Throw in long periods of mediocrity from NC State, Virginia and soon-to-be-Big Ten-bound Maryland, and it's fair to say the ACC has mostly ridden Duke and North Carolina's coattails recently.

The league has averaged a modest five NCAA Tournament bids per season since its 2004 expansion and produced only four NCAA teams two of the past three seasons. No ACC team besides Duke and North Carolina has made a Final Four since Hewitt's Georgia Tech team lost to UConn in the 2004 national title game.

Obviously, it's unrealistic for every program in a 15-team league to be strong in a given season. But for the ACC to live up to Krzyzewski's gaudy expectations, the league will need some of its middling programs to rise to the level of their competition.

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