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December 26, 2012

ACC could become juggernaut in future

The ACC has the potential to take the baton from the Big East and become the best conference in college basketball.

NC State coach Mark Gottfried is looking forward to the additions of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which should create more "good wins" within the league, incredible recruiting potential and perhaps up to 10 teams per year in reaching the NCAA Tournament.

"Competition makes you better," Gottfried said. "It always does. Great competition raises everybody's level of play up. I think Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, [Louisville] should make all of us better."

The cache of the Big East over the years was the sheer amount of famous coaches in the league. Now the ACC has more "big names" with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, joining the fray. Both Pitino and Boeheim have won national titles.

"Notre Dame has been good and Mike has done a great job," Gottfried said. "Louisville been good and they are going to be good, and are committed to being good. Syracuse the same thing, and Pitt, the same thing. You are bringing in four teams that probably believe they can come into this league and get right to the top real fast."

Losing Maryland to the Big Ten is a tough blow in many ways to the tradition of the ACC, but the addition of Louisville could spice up the league. NC State and Louisville recruited many of the same players with all three Wolfpack senior signees getting offered by the Cardinals, and two of the four UL signees offered by NCSU.

"I don't really see the Louisville for Maryland as a swap, though it is, but I just kind of look at the four coming in," Gottfried said. "You look at Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame, and I just watched Notre Dame [vs. Kentucky on TV], and those are four programs that aren't cyclical good. They are good all the time. It's not like, 'Hey, they had a couple of good years and then they are bad.'"

Gottfried points to simple math in how the RPI for each league member will get better with the addition of the four schools.

"When you play 18 conference games and you substitute two more conference games theoretically for two, what we call the bye games in December, you have two more higher RPI games on your schedule," Gottfried said. "Everybody in our league has that, and that hopefully help everybody's RPI raise, so now as a league your RPI is better.

"At the end of the year on Selection Sunday, you got 12 or 13 teams in the top 60-70 in the RPI, and now you have a chance to get eight or 10 teams, which is what the Big East did a couple of years ago."

Gottfried remarked that he already has seen an impact in basketball recruiting. Gottfried and his fellow ACC coaches can sell any prospect on joining what should be the No. 1 league in the conference. The SEC in football has greatly benefitted by separating itself on the football field, and the ACC could start doing the same in hoops.

"I think kids, it's easy to convince a 17-year-old guy that this is going to be the best basketball league in America, period," Gottfried said. "When we sit with recruits, and we talk about our league, and we talk about Pitt, Syracuse, Notre Dame and then we talk NC State, Miami, Virginia and a Georgia Tech are getting better. Carolina and Duke where they have been."

NC State could also start recruiting players from different areas from the country. The Wolfpack already have started recruited top 25 juniors such as Cliff Alexander (Chicago), D'Angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky.), JaQuan Lyle (Evansville, Ind.) and Kevon Looney (Milwaukee, Wis.).

Conversely, the new schools might try harder in North Carolina. Pittsburgh already reaped dividends from its move to the ACC by signing Raleigh Word of God senior point guard Josh Newkirk.

"It raises the level for everybody," Gottfried said. "I'm sure those four schools will want to recruit in this area. They will come here more often. I think we can recruit more areas. I think we can go into Chicago now different than we could before because we are going there [with South Bend, Ind., 90 minutes away]. We can go into Kentucky or Ohio, or that Louisville area."


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