MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Although his North Carolina squad is the only ACC team in the Sweet 16 -- nine of the original 68 teams in the field hailed from the conference -- Roy Williams still believes his league is the best in America.
"This year, I was convinced we were by far the best league, but we haven't shown it in the tournament," Williams told reporters in Memphis on Thursday, the day before his Tar Heels face Butler in the Sweet 16. "I don't know if either [the league's record in the tourney or the regular season] are the only way to gauge, but it's a very, very strenuous schedule. It's exhausting trying to play in the ACC with 15 ... playing those 18 games is a marathon, but you have to sprint through it. I think the ACC is still the best league."
Entering Selection Sunday, when Florida State (No. 3 seed), North Carolina (1), Duke (2) and Louisville (2) all received favorable seeds, many pegged the ACC as America's top conference. But the league stumbled in the opening rounds, and eight of the nine ACC teams lost. Xavier, an 11-seed, beat Florida State by 25 points in the second round. Virginia registered just 39 points in a loss to Florida at the same stage. Duke led by double digits early in the second half but suffered a seven-point loss to South Carolina, a 7-seed, in the second round.
North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II said the league's best teams suffered losses in tough games but that it does not mean, however, the ACC failed this season.
"That's why they call it March Madness," Berry said. "Anything can happen. It's one game. Just some teams just didn't have their best games on the day that they played, and they don't get another chance. Winner stays and loser goes home. It's hard to say, you know, that the other teams are better, but it just so happened that the other teams came to play that day, and they just had a good day."