Is the ACC down? Not so fast

Georgia Tech blogger BirdGT at From The Rumble Seat has a beef with his fellow ACC fans. It goes a little somethin' like this:

All I've heard lately is, "Our conference is down!" or "North Carolina is bad so everyone else sucks too!" or "The ACC will only get one berth in the NCAA's!" Blasphemy? Yes. Insanity? Yes.

Mr. GT goes on to make the point, through charts and graphs and facts and figures, that not only is the ACC not down, it's actually fared quite well against other power conferences -- going 8-4 against the Big East, for example. Mr. GT also takes on the perception that the Big East is better merely because it's bigger, which is pervasive; you saw it already today, when Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez revealed his opinion that middle-of-the-pack teams in the Big East should get in the NCAA tournament because the conference itself is so good. That's only partially true. There are plenty of good teams in the Big East. But it's also much bigger than any other conference, meaning its odds of producing elite teams from year to year are slightly higher than its counterparts. Likewise for its bad teams.

That's a digression, though; this is really about the ACC. Is the conference bad or not? That depends how you define "bad." After listing the conference's tempo free margins on Tuesday, John Gasaway made this exact point:

No truly scary teams, right? After all, Duke just got whacked by Georgetown in Washington D.C. on Saturday and, at the risk of skipping ahead, the Hoyas may be merely the Big East's fifth- or sixth-best team. So why is it that by the lights of at least one widely respected measure the ACC is the best conference in the nation? Simple: The league has bad teams but no truly awful ones. Remember this over the next few weeks as debates rage over whether the Big East is better than the Big 12. Talking about a conference through the medium of its NCAA tournament entrants is one thing. Talking about it "top to bottom" is quite another. Define your terms in advance.

The ACC isn't particularly intimidating this year, but that doesn't mean it's a "down" year, at least not if you're interested in looking at every team in every conference and comparing them as such. The ACC has one very good team (Duke), a couple of potentially good teams (Maryland and Georgia Tech, probably) a couple of surprises (Virginia and North Carolina, for different reasons) and a bunch of just-OK to bad squads. There isn't a single Rutgers or LSU or Penn State among them. The ACC might not crown this year's national champion, but let's not be too harsh, huh?