The ACC Wasn't Bad This Year, They Just Really Underperformed in the NCAA Tournament
You see, the thing about the NCAA Tournament is that it's single elimination. As a result, you get volatility. You get upsets.
You get madness.
It just so happens that, in 2017, the madness directly impacted and slaughtered the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Entering this year's big dance, the ACC had nine teams representing the conference. Today -- in the Sweet 16 -- only North Carolina remains.
This doesn't mean the ACC was overrated this season -- our own Brett Oswalt explained why that's earlier today. But, man, did the group of ACC teams underperform in the tournament.
Analyzing With nERD
Here at numberFire, our signature metric for college hoops is called nERD, which determines the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average squad on a neutral court. A nERD of 2.98, for instance, means we'd expect that team to beat an ordinary one by about 3 points on a neutral court. If it was -2.98, we'd expect them to lose by that margin.
The following chart shows the nERD ratings for each team entering the tournament, what they are now after two rounds, and the difference between the two. All Sweet 16 teams are bolded.
My goodness, what the hell happened to the ACC?
When looking at the difference in nERD from the start of the tournament until now, eight of the bottom nine teams in "improvement" are ACC squads. The only team not grouped towards the bottom is the aforementioned North Carolina, but they've even seen a dip in nERD rating since the start of the tourney thanks to a down performance against Arkansas in the Round of 32.
To be fair, Florida State, Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia, Louisville, and Duke each played more than one game in the tournament, meaning there was more opportunity to screw up and play below expectation. A team like Minnesota or Maryland, for instance, may have ranked lower on the list had they played another contest.
But even still, it's very clear that the conference just simply underperformed in the big dance.