The ACC Tournament didn’t end with North Carolina’s championship last week. It continued in arenas across the country in what is otherwise known as the NCAA Tournament.
When Syracuse ran away from Middle Tennessee State 75-50 in the Midwest Region on Sunday, the hoops-loving conference advanced its sixth team to the Sweet 16.
That’s a record. The previous mark of five was established by the Big East in 2009 and ACC last year.
The conference is represented in every region.
Besides the Orange in the Midwest, Virginia, the region’s top seed, will take on Iowa State on Friday in Chicago.
A double-digit seed will play for a Final Four spot in the other Midwest semifinal when No. 10 Syracuse meets No. 11 Gonzaga.
Notre Dame had the closest call among ACC teams when it survived Stephen F. Austin 76-75 in the East Region in Brooklyn.
“Are you kidding me, are you freaking kidding me?” is how Irish coach Mike Brey opened his postgame news conference. He closed it by puffing out his chest over the ACC.
“I’m really proud of our league,” Brey said. “Six from one league in the Sweet 16? It’s unbelievable and further validates how hard our league was.”
Brey similarly touted the Big East when the Irish were members of that conference until joining the ACC in 2013. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, asked if his team’s victory if the ACC was as tough as the Big East in its heyday, wouldn’t go there.
“You know I’m never going to say that,” Boeheim said.
Of the surviving ACC teams, Syracuse is the biggest surprise. The Orange was one of the final at-large teams selected, and Boeheim served a nine-game suspension earlier in the year. But when No. 2 seed Michigan State was upset by Middle Tennessee in the first round, Syracuse took advantage and advanced to the 17th Sweet 16 in Boeheim’s 40 seasons.
The ACC Sweet 16 total doubles the Big 12’s three, but the Big 12 feels good about its weekend. After losing four of its seven teams in the first round, the three survivors won in the second round when Oklahoma held off VCU 85-81 in a West Region game Sunday at Oklahoma City.
With Kansas and Iowa State joining Oklahoma, the conference has three teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009.
The Sooners’ Buddy Hield poured in 36 points, 29 in the second half, to push Oklahoma into its second straight Sweet 16 appearance.
But the ACC reigns supreme. Both No. 1 seeds —North Carolina in the East and Virginia in the Midwest — move on, as does defending national champion Duke in the West. Miami is headed to a South Region semifinal against Villanova in Louisville, Ky.
The conference that took it on the chin? The Pac-12. Oregon entered its West Region game against St. Joseph on Sunday night in Spokane, Wash., as the lone survivor among the seven in the field. Utah, the only other Pac-12 team that won in the first round, was crushed by Gonzaga in the second round.
“I definitely feel overwhelmed because I just didn’t think any of us pictured it like this,” Utah guard Brandon Taylor said.
Taylor was commenting specifically about Utah. He could have been speaking for the entire Pac-12.