DURHAM, N.C. —
This might be the Atlantic Coast Conference’s best chance to finally end its long title drought at the College World Series.
The league hasn’t produced a national champion since Wake Forest in 1955.
This season four ACC teams came to Durham for the league tournament that begins Wednesday with legitimate shots at one of the top-eight national seeds in next week’s NCAA tournament.
All eight teams here are in the top 22 of the latest NCAA-released RPI. No other conference has more than five.
North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent calls the ACC tournament “Omaha East.” And veteran Florida State coach Mike Martin said Tuesday that all eight teams have the talent to make it to the College World Series.
The ACC hasn’t had much trouble sending teams to Omaha — but in each of the last 57 years, they’ve all come home empty handed.
Since the Demon Deacons won the league’s only national championship, 40 teams have represented the ACC in the College World Series but have combined for what is by far the longest title drought among the Division I power conferences.
“The irony of no team doing it in all those years is kind of odd,” Avent said, “but hopefully, this will be the year.”
The Pac-12 and its previous incarnations have combined for 20 national titles in that time. The mighty Southeastern Conference has nine championships, all since 1990. The Big Ten has a handful of titles, the Big 12 has two since it was created in the mid-1990s and Miami won four crowns as an independent before joining the ACC in 2004-05.
A few ACC teams have come close: North Carolina was the runner-up in both 2006 and ’07, and Florida State and Georgia Tech also lost in the finals in the last 20 years. “I’ve always said that I want very much to be a part of a national championship team,” said Martin, whose Seminoles are the sport’s winningest program without a national title.
“It’s just something that every coach strives for, and if it happens, it happens,” he added. “And if it doesn’t, there’s not going to be any second-guessing from me. I’ve beat myself up a number of times on regular-season games, but there’s just so much that can happen in postseason.”
Avent said the ACC’s drought “just shows you how hard sports is” and drew a comparison to the conference’s marquee sport.
The ACC seems to have a few candidates that could finally bring an end to all those questions about 1955.
North Carolina (48-8) spent all but the last week of the season ranked No. 1 in Baseball America’s Top 25 and is No. 2 in the RPI — one spot ahead of Virginia (45-9), which is ranked fifth in the Baseball America poll.
Florida State (44-12) is No. 5 in the RPI and N.C. State is ninth, giving the league four strong candidates for national seeds when the NCAA’s bracket is announced Monday. Clemson (12 in the RPI), Virginia Tech (15), Miami (20) and Georgia Tech (22) also are safe bets to make the double-elimination field of 64 — and Martin thinks any of them could get hot and stick around a while.
“I think what you have, in all honesty, is eight teams that very well every team has the ability to get to Omaha,” Martin said.
“And you’re putting them all in one site, four on one side, four on the other. If I’m a baseball fan, which I am, I’m going to watch all of these games.”