ACC Leads Field With Six Schools In Sweet 16 — Big 10, Big 12 Place Three Each

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) placed a record six teams in the Sweet 16 field, Yahoo! Sports reported on Monday. The previous mark – held by the former Big East in 2009 and the ACC last year – was five member schools from one conference.

Of the seven ACC teams to qualify for the 2016 NCAA Tournament, only the Pittsburgh Panthers failed to win a game as the school fell in the first round to Wisconsin 47-43. The remaining schools – North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, Duke, Notre Dame and Syracuse – play an opponent from another conference in Sweet 16 games Thursday and Friday, leaving open the chance that six of the eight squads to advance could call the ACC home.

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The Big 10 and Big 12 each placed three teams apiece, meaning 12 of the Sweet 16 teams come from one of the three conferences. Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma each advanced for the Big 12 while the Big 10 landed Maryland, Indiana and Wisconsin in the next round.

Oregon (PAC 12), Villanova (Big East), Texas A&M (SEC) and Gonzaga (WCC) round out the remaining squads in the Sweet 16. While the ACC has enjoyed a historically good showing, the PAC 12 has experienced the opposite as five schools lost in the opening round, and a sixth was drubbed in the round of 32. Coming into the tournament, the PAC 12 ranked higher according to the RPI than the ACC.

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The previous record might not have fallen had it not been for a little luck by the Fighting Irish. Rex Plfueger tipped in a shot with 1.5 seconds remaining in the contest, giving Notre Dame and the ACC an improbable win over an improbable opponent in Stephen F. Austin (not Steve Austin, although he was invited by the team to attend).

The league might have had more teams in the field had Louisville not self-imposed a ban this year, The Washington Post reported. Conceivably, the league could have placed an eighth team in the field had the Cardinals not declared their team ineligible this season.

Nonetheless, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was impressed with the league’s effort, noting the former record was shared by the conference the Fighting Irish once called home before being disassembled a few year ago.

“I’m really proud of our league. It’s playing out to be the best league. Remember, I came from that league called the Big East when we were by far the best league and had this kind of depth and number of NCAA tournament caliber teams. … Six from one league in the Sweet 16? It’s unbelievable and further validates how hard our league was.”

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was equally complementary of the ACC after the conference landed six schools in the Sweet 16, USA Today reported on Sunday. Noting that his team had success outside of the ACC early on, the veteran coach thought the conference’s showing in the 2016 NCAA Tournament showed how deep the league was this season.

“Well, we knew it was a hard conference. We were in it all year… We struggled in the conference for the most part because we were playing good teams, really good teams, and it’s hard to judge a conference during the year… But I think you have to go a little bit by what conferences do in the [NCAA] tournament. That’s the only thing we have to judge on because during the regular season, they’re just playing within your conference… I think the tournament is a good measuring stick. It’s not everything.”

To view the Sweet 16 East preview, click here.

To view the Sweet 16 South preview, click here.

To view the Sweet 16 Midwest preview, click here.

To view the Sweet 16 West preview, click here.

With a record six teams in the Sweet 16, do you think the ACC can place two or more teams in the 2016 NCAA Final Four? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

[Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]