For 10 teams that won their second NCAA tournament game this weekend, amid the joy and celebration of a season extended, a championship drive preserved, a distinction well earned -- after the mathematically unthinkable comebacks and seemingly impossible buzzer-beaters had wrapped up -- the terms of the deal were altered.
The third round of the NCAA tournament would be under new management. The brand, as they say, had been refreshed.
Next week, they would be participating in the first-ever ACCweet 16.
The new name -- trademark pending -- is well deserved. There are plenty of interesting storylines in this 2016 second-weekend mix: the relative chalkiness of the seeds, the four No. 1 seeds (for the first time since 2012), the fascinating matchups across the board. And we'll get to those. At the moment, though, there is no other way to characterize the remainder of this NCAA tournament field. The math is impossible to dispute. Of the teams playing in next weekend's Sweet 16, six -- more than a third! -- hail from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Division I college basketball comprises 351 teams, spread across 32 conferences. Six of those conferences can be accurately described (in basketball, anyway) as "power" leagues. The Big 12 and Big Ten have three teams apiece. The Big East, SEC and Pac-12 have one each.
The ACC sent seven teams total to the NCAA tournament. Only Pittsburgh has departed -- the lone blemish on a 12-1 record.
No. 1 North Carolina. No. 1 Virginia. No. 3 Miami. No. 4 Duke. No. 6 Notre Dame. No. 10 Syracuse. No conference has ever accounted for so much of the tournament's third round.
Make no mistake. This is a hostile takeover.
It has been, like most hostile takeovers, financially lucrative. It is also relatively unexpected. This was a very good version of the ACC, sure, but it never looked like the record-setting, March-dominating type. If anything, the 2014-15 edition felt more vaunted. Duke and Virginia were elite national title contenders. Notre Dame, North Carolina and Louisville were talented, top-10 outfits. And, in fact, last season's ACC went on to set the Sweet 16 participation record ... with the grand total of five.
How did this year's version break it? Good basketball is a good place to start. North Carolina is a national title co-favorite and has been since last summer. Virginia is every bit as good as it was a season ago, and maybe better. Miami emerged as a top-15 team in November and maintained that status throughout the year. Duke is Duke, which is to say coach Mike Krzyzewski found a way -- despite the loss of Amile Jefferson and a 4-4 start to ACC play -- to get the Blue Devils moving forward in March.
Yet the league has also had its surprises. And, yes, a few favorable breaks.
To get here, Syracuse first needed an invitation. That prospect was in doubt until Selection Sunday. The committee not only put the bubbly Orange in the field but kept them out of the First Four ... which eventually turned into a No. 10 seed advancing in a Midwest region pod with No. 7 Dayton, No. 2 Michigan State and No. 15 Middle Tennessee.
You know what happened next: The Blue Raiders had an out-of-body experience against the Spartans, burying everything they looked at en route to a 90-81 upset-of-the-decade. After handling its favorable first-round matchup with the Flyers, Syracuse found itself preparing not for title-contending Michigan State and its previously unstoppable offense, but for an undersized mid-major coming off the mother of all outliers. The result? Middle Tennessee shot 29 percent from the field and scored 50 points in 61 possessions, and bam. Syracuse was in the Sweet 16.
Notre Dame's second-round situation was similar in theory, if slightly different in practice: Stephen F. Austin's upset of West Virginia led to a thrilling round-of-32 clash, but one the Irish -- who would have (probably) had a much more difficult time with WVU forward Devin Williams on the front line -- were capable of handling. Across the bracket, No. 12 seed Yale provided every bit the challenge to Duke, yet the Blue Devils' talent persevered and advanced.
In 13 games thus far, the ACC has yet to face a team seeded higher than No. 7. That helps.
Still, there is no diminishing the league's accomplishment. Neither Stephen F. Austin nor Yale were accurately represented by their seed, to say nothing of Miami's win over laughably bracketed No. 11 Wichita State. Besides, you can only beat the teams in front of you. Meanwhile, one of the ACC's best teams -- Louisville -- isn't even in the bracket. Six might have been seven. (Old-school ACC heads will note that charter member Maryland, now residing in the Big Ten, is also still on the board.)
Arguing against the results is impossible. What's done is done. UNC, UVa, Miami, Duke, ND and the Cuse are here now, in a Sweet 16 they have all but flooded. The likelihood that one of them will win the national title is extremely high. An all-ACC Final Four is entirely possible.
A six-team Elite Eight? Could totally happen.
We'll keep the marketing team on call, just in case. The 8CC? It's a start.