Brad Brownell is now hearing the same things that Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has for years; the ACC is a weak conference.
The narrative has always been that the ACC lags behind other Power 5 conferences such as the SEC and Big 10 when it comes to football, but now that notion has begun to seep into the fabric of the conference’s basketball acumen, something that would have never seemed possible.
The ACC has long been acknowledged as the hoops behemoth across the collegiate sports landscape, but a down year on the hardwood across the board has many speculating that the conference as a whole is declining across the board.
Brownell is not buying into that notion.
“I’m really tired of the narrative,” said Brownell following the Tigers’ 70-64 home victory against Louisville on Tuesday night. “I think the narrative with our league is ridiculous. There’s going to be stats, you know, I think somebody said we are 9-3 against the Big 12. Teams are different, right? Teams improve. These guys battled some good teams in the non-conference. Maybe it was the loss by a basket or two to Indiana and Texas, those are two that just popped off the top of my head.”Brad Brownell
The way Brownell sees it, parity does not equal weakness. Rather, it is a sign that there is quality basketball being played across the conference. Georgia Tech, who defeated Clemson in doubt overtime two weeks ago, upset the #3 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Tuesday as well, the Yellow Jackets’ first top three win since 2004.
“That’s a joke,” continued Brownell. “So, they’re good enough to beat (North) Carolina, Duke, and Clemson, but they’re not very good? That’s insane. Let’s get some other teams to try and beat all three of us.”Brad Brownell
The point that Brownell is making is that far from being down, ACC teams play brutal schedules and the records are not a true inference of talent. Clemson came within a second of defeating Duke last Saturday at Cameron Indoor Arena. The Blue Devils are a top 10 ranked team as well.
The Tigers’ coach merely wants the ACC to receive the respect he feels it has earned, and the quality of players and competition merit that recognition.
“It’s obviously frustrating for the coaches and the players in the league, the narrative that is not right,” he added. “Hopefully our league and everyone else will do more, but, you know, we cannibalize each other. I think it’s an overreach because you can completely pad your stats by playing a weak schedule and winning by 40. Your efficiency numbers change, so then the question is, we overschedule probably.”Brad Brownell
That fact is, Clemson does play a monstrous schedule, both in and out of conference play. The Tigers got off to a hot start, and defeated South Carolina handily during that stretch, and the Gamecocks are now 17-3 with consecutive top 10 wins over Kentucky and Tennessee.
The fact Clemson won that game, and many other impressive victories, is proof that the Tigers are among the most talented teams in the country who can play with anyone. The point Brownell wants to make is, just because Clemson as a team has lost to other good teams, just as everyone in the ACC has, does not mean the conference is in a decline.
“The last two years we have scheduled less guaranteed games, and this year we’re winning so that might prove to be the big help, but I’m watching other teams who are doing the opposite. They’re scheduling seven, eight guarantee games and winning by 30 as much as they can. A lot of the Big 12 is doing that. We need to study it better as a league if that is part of the trick.”Brad Brownell
As the season winds down to March, eyes will be on the ACC and how many teams from the conference as selected for the NCAA tournament. Clemson was snubbed last season despite an impressive resume, but as Brownell said, he is hopeful the body of work put together by the Tigers this season will be enough to earn a big to the Big Dance.