More hasn’t meant better for ACC

The ACC isn’t just down. It’s downright ugly.

In fact, this may be the worst the conference has been since, well, ever.

Just two teams are currently ranked: No. 1 Duke and North Carolina, which moved back into the Top 25 a month ago after looking like a return to the NIT was far more likely.

I think I’ve found the culprit.

Expansion.

Remember, the league welcomed Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech back in 2005. The Hurricanes and Virginia Tech have each been to the NCAA tournament just once since entering the league and Boston College hasn’t made the Big Dance two of the last three seasons – and is heading down the NIT road this year.

It was done, as expansion always is, for football purposes.

But ACC basketball – which is what the league has been built on – has taken a hit.

It’s become watered-down.

"We’ve taken for granted the golden goose for a long time,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was vehemently opposed to expansion before the league approved it six years ago. "We have to look at the old goose and see if it’s still golden. If it’s not, we have to get it there.”

"This is still the best conference,” he added.

Not these days

The ACC stands behind the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and maybe even the SEC and Mountain West this season.

That’s no joke. The Mountain West has a pair of top-10 teams in San Diego State and BYU – and also another lock tourney club in UNLV.

The ACC has just two locks and a few more bubble teams.

The Hokies were supposed to a fixture in the Top 25, but Seth Greenberg has watched four of his top eight guys go down with season-ending injuries prior to or during the season.

Boston College also sits somewhere on the softest bubble in the country after losing six of its last eight games. And Miami is just 5-8 in league play.

Those were the three additions brought in back in 2005, but they haven’t brought much to the table this season.

Except mediocrity.

Now let’s look at the holdovers.

Florida State sits in second place with 19 overall wins and a 9-4 mark in the ACC, but the Seminoles’ resume is hardly intimidating.

Leonard Hamilton’s team couldn’t knock off a Butler team that has lost five games in the Horizon League out in Hawaii, lost to a brutal Auburn squad and has simply got into the tournament equation by beating up on its ACC peers.

And now FSU could be without its best player, Chris Singleton, for the rest of the season after he broke his foot two weeks ago. If the Seminoles flop in their final three regular-season games and Singleton doesn’t return for the ACC tourney, the committee will have a difficult decision to make.

It’s just as hard to get a true read on whether Duke is for real as a legitimate national championship contender without Kyrie Irving in the lineup.

The Blue Devils have won 12 of their 13 conference games, with the loss coming in Tallahassee to Florida State.

The list of Dukies victims: a sweep over Maryland, N.C. State, Virginia and Miami. Home wins over North Carolina, Boston College and Georgia Tech and a road victory against a Wake Forest team that has just eight total wins this season.

Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels have looked like a legitimate Final Four team over the past month, but is it the insertion of freshman Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup?

Or is it the ACC?

North Carolina has won 14 of 16 games since Dec. 21, but the Tar Heels’ most impressive win was a 20-point rout over Florida State in Chapel Hill.

And this is the second-best team in the league.

In any ordinary year, first-year Boston College coach Steve Donahue – who, in his defense, inherited a roster that features 3 1/2  ACC-caliber players – would have been fortunate to finish out of the cellar.

Luckily, there’s Miami, Virginia, the train wreck that is known as Sidney Lowe and N.C. State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

So, instead, the Eagles – who lost at home to Harvard and Yale this season – somehow find their way on the NCAA tournament bubble and fighting with Clemson and Maryland for fifth place in what was once known as the most prestigious basketball league in America.

Why?

Because the league stinks.

It’s tough to sugar coat – even for those in the league.

"It’s the worst it’s been since I’ve been here,” said one veteran coach. "Terrible.”

"I can’t believe it’s this bad,” said one assistant who just got into the league. "It’s not much better than a mid-major.”

Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the league has received at least four bids every year except for 1999 and 2000 – when the ACC got three apiece.

It got six in the Big Dance a year ago and seven schools were represented in both 2007 and 2009.

This season the league is likely looking at three, maybe four teams, even though the field has expanded to 68 and parity reigns supreme in college basketball.

I’m not the only one concerned about the league’s future, either.

Just ask Coach K.