POPE: Could new ACC be best hoops league ever? ND’s Jack Swarbrick thinks so
Jack Swarbrick referenced a quote from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, a pretty good source for college basketball, when a recent discussion turned to the strength of hoops in the ACC.
“I think coach Krzyzewski said it well. I think this is set up to be the best basketball conference in the history of college basketball,” Swarbrick, Notre Dame’s athletic director, said in a phone interview Thursday.
Notre Dame officially joins the ACC in every sport but football and men’s ice hockey on Monday. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are also newcomers in the conference. Maryland exits for the Big Ten in 2014, but Louisville enters in that same year.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Notre Dame’s conference switch affects its football scheduling. Notre Dame remains independent in football, but will play five games each year against ACC teams beginning in 2014.
But there’s plenty to look forward to for all the sports across the board. Especially basketball.
“When you add Syracuse and Pittsburgh (this year), and Louisville next year, and we certainly think we bring a lot, you add that to the already great power and tradition of the ACC, I don’t think college basketball has ever seen anything like it, in both men and women’s,” Swarbrick said.
Three of the last five NCAA men’s basketball championship teams will call the ACC home by 2014.
Last season, the Big Ten received a large chunk of the hype during the men’s basketball season. And rightfully so, with teams like Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State spending time in the top 10 of the polls and each reaching at least the Sweet 16 of the tournament. But the schools that will make up the new-look ACC had quite the tournament, as well.
Of course, it starts with Louisville. The Cardinals defeated Michigan to win the championship. And then there’s Syracuse, which made the Final Four.
Duke’s NCAA tournament run ended in the Elite Eight, at the hands of Louisville. Miami was a No. 2 seed in the East Region and got to the Sweet 16.
North Carolina (round of 32), North Carolina State, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame also made the tournament. It was the sixth tournament appearance in the past seven years for the Irish.
Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team made its third straight trip to the Final Four this season. Another future ACC team, Louisville, reached the title game.
“This is going to be one incredible women’s basketball conference. Louisville and Notre Dame were of course in the Final Four last year, we’ve been in it three consecutive years,” Swarbrick said. “Duke, Maryland, up and down this conference great women’s basketball, too.”
I’m really looking forward to the next few chapters of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The ACC dominated the early rounds of the men’s challenge, winning the first 10 in the series. But the Big Ten has come out on top recently, taking the next three. Last year, the conferences split the Challenge, with each winning six games.
This year’s schedule includes Indiana at Syracuse, Michigan at Duke and North Carolina at Michigan State. Notre Dame gets its first taste of the Challenge with a Dec. 3 game at Iowa. It’s the team’s first trip to Iowa since 1950.
As for conference play for the Irish, this season features home and road games against North Carolina, Virginia, Boston College and Georgia Tech. Duke pays a visit to South Bend, the first trip to Notre Dame since 1995. The dates for the games will be announced at a later time.
Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey will continue to match wits with some of the top coaches in the country. Just look at the list. Krzyzewski, Roy Williams (North Carolina), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Rick Pitino (when Louisville joins), to name a few. Krzyzewski, Williams and Pitino have each led teams to multiple national championships.
The programs have plenty of tradition of winning multiple titles. North Carolina has five national titles, Duke has four. Louisville just captured its third. North Carolina State has two titles.
“There’s never been a basketball conference like this,” Swarbrick said.
Time will tell if it will become the best basketball conference ever. It will be fun to watch and find out.