The algorithm used to calculate college basketball’s NET rankings is as much of a mystery as the ingredients in Col. Sanders’ secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices.

Few, if anyone, has a clue as to how the computer arrives at the numbers it spits out and becomes the gospel in determining which teams should and shouldn’t be invited to the NCAA’s annual spring dance.

But at least this much is clear. The NET is far from an exact science.

Its heavy emphasis on games played at the start of the season helps create perceptions about teams and conferences that are difficult to change and don’t always reflect which might be playing their best when the games really matter most in March.

Exhibit A is Clemson.

Despite going 23-10 with 4 Quad 1 wins – twice as many as at-large selections Illinois, St. Mary’s and Utah State – the Tigers became the 1st ACC team to miss out on the NCAA Tournament with a conference winning percentage of .700.

They were kept out largely on the basis of Quad 4 losses to South Carolina and Loyola of Chicago on Nov. 11 and Dec. 10, at a time in which their best player PJ Hall was still working his way back into shape following offseason surgery.

Exhibit B is Duke.

While the Blue Devils were never in danger of missing the tournament, their seeding in it was adversely affected by a shaky start that can be at least partially attributed to injuries and the inexperience of both their 5 freshman regulars and a rookie head coach.

Although they have grown and improved into 1 of the hottest teams in the country entering NCAA play with 9 straight wins and an ACC Tournament championship, they only merited a 5 seed from the selection committee because NET dragged down some early road losses and the performance of 3 historically bad teams at the bottom of their conference.

“Some of that stuff is out of our control,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said when asked about the subject during last week’s ACC Tournament. “There’s good basketball in this league. Maybe we don’t have 3 1 seeds like we did (in 2019), but there’s so much parity now. 

“And a lot of it, the dye is already cast at the start of the season: ‘This league is good, this league is not.’ I think leagues evolve as a season goes on. But all we can control is what we’re doing.”

The ACC did its part to dispel the narrative that it’s become a subpar conference last March by placing 3 of its teams among the Elite 8 and having both North Carolina and Duke advance to New Orleans to comprise half the Final Four.

It’s back in a familiar position this year after another balky regular season.

Now it’s up to the 5 teams that did get into the tournament – Duke, Virginia, Miami, NC State and Pittsburgh – to do their part to help salvage the league’s reputation once again.

The ACC is already off to a positive start with the Panthers’ win against Mississippi State in the First Four on Tuesday, a key head-to-head matchup against the SEC.

But the most important games are yet to come. No matter what the NET suggests.

Let’s size up their chances.


The No. 5 seed in the East Region, the Blue Devils’ recent hot streak has made them a chic pick to make it back to the Final Four. As such, their ability to go deep into this tournament will be huge in helping to shape the ACC’s narrative moving forward.

Jon Scheyer’s team opens with a date against 12th-seeded Oral Roberts. The Summit League champions have won 17 straight and 30 overall, but they’ve lost their only 3 games against teams in the tournament field – Houston, Utah State and St. Mary’s – and likely haven’t seen anyone with the kind of size and length Duke will throw at them.

The road after that is hardly a smooth one, with potential matchups against Tennessee in the 2nd round and top-seeded Purdue in the Sweet 16. But with Kyle Filipowski playing at an elite level, youngsters Dereck Lively II, Tyrese Proctor and Dariq Whitehead growing in confidence and an aggressive defense that has become their calling card, the Blue Devils appear to be equipped for the task.


The Cavaliers are the highest-seeded ACC team at No. 4 in the South Region, despite losing to Duke in the conference tournament final. They face a tricky opening round game against 13th-seeded Furman, a high-scoring veteran team that can cause problems for Bennett’s pack-line defense because of its 3-point shooting prowess.

UVA scored only 49 points against the Blue Devils last Saturday in Greensboro and have had trouble putting the ball in the basket over the past few weeks. Its offensive issues have only been amplified by the loss of stretch-4 Ben Vander Plas to a broken hand.

The Cavaliers can still defend with the best of them, but they’ll have to be able to score against the Paladins to advance to a 2nd-round date with either San Diego State or College of Charleston. 


The Hurricanes were the 3rd ACC team to make the Elite 8 in 2022 and they have that kind of potential again as the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region. But because of the uncertain availability of big man Norchad Omier, their only true inside presence, they could just as easily be bounced by opening round opponent Drake.

Though such a loss would come with an extenuating circumstance, it wouldn’t matter to those looking for further reasons to pile on the ACC.

NC State

Other than Duke, this is the ACC team with the most to prove. There are those, most notably ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, who have suggested that Clemson should have gotten into the field instead of the Wolfpack. Kevin Keatts’ 11th-seeded team desperately needs a win in its opening-round South Region game against Creighton to quiet the noise and justify their selection.

Their chances will depend on the shooting touch of star guard Terquavion Smith, who has run alternately hot and cold during a stretch that has seen State drop 3 of its past games heading into the tournament. There’s also a question about how the thin air in Denver might affect the stamina of super sized big man DJ Burns, whose importance has grown exponentially depending on the availability of injured forward Greg Gantt.


As noted earlier, the Panthers succeeded in getting out of Dayton and into the main bracket. That’s a good start. Their next test will be an even more important 1 from an ACC perspective.

Not only is their “second round” game against Iowa State in Greensboro an opportunity to advance in the bracket, but it will also provide the conference with a shot at showing the world it can compete on an equal basis with a comparable opponent from the league rated as the nation’s best.