ACC looks forward to more competitive slate

Florida State winning the ACC Tournament last March was the first real step in making ACC basketball more inclusive than it has been for some time. The next one might be N.C. State’s ascent this winter to the top league annually dominated by Duke and North Carolina.

Throw in a veteran team such as Miami, the potential of Maryland, and the stability of FSU, and the Blue Devils and Tar Heels may actually spend all season rubbing elbows with the perceived lower classes.

ACC basketball may be rekindling a flame of sorts this season. UNC was always in the title picture in the 1980s and ’90s, but plenty of other clubs rose to the challenge, not just for ACC supremacy, but also on the national stage.

From 1980 until 1996, six different schools won the ACC Tournament, and keep in mind the league had just eight members until 1992 when FSU came aboard. Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College didn’t arrive until the 2000s. UNC won five titles, Duke four, Georgia Tech three, N.C. State and Wake Forest two each, and Maryland captured one championship.

In addition, from 1985 until 1995, seven times the ACC placed four teams in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, but hasn’t done so since. Virginia advanced to the Final Four in 1984 the season after its greater player ever, Ralph Sampson, graduated and despite going 6-8 in the ACC.

Every program in the league except Maryland played in a regional final in the 1980s, and the Terps were regulars in the national rankings while producing many NBA players.

Observers marveled at Duke winning the 2010 national championship on the heels of UNCs 2009 crown, but keep in mind, N.C. State won it all in 1983, a year after Michael Jordan and the Tar Heels gave Dean Smith his first national title, and Carolina followed Duke’s Christian Laettner-led back-to-back titles in 1991 and 1992 with a national championship of its own in 1993.

The ACC may not produce a national champion this season, but it boasts programs other than Duke and UNC that can make a splash beginning next month through the NCAAs. And that’s what makes tonight’s Midnight Madness around the conference so exciting.

Here’s a quick look at the ACC’s 12 schools and their prospects for the upcoming season»