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Follow-up to "The ACC is a Major Disappointment"

Fans around the ACC were less than amused at my argument that the ACC has been disappointing since the realignment, and they let us know about it on Twitter. I respond to that reaction, which included plenty of valid criticisms.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

I have to admit, when writing my initial article arguing that "The ACC is a Major Disappointment", I did not think for a second that anyone outside our usual One Foot Down community would be reading it. This was a huge mistake on my part, something that became obvious on Sunday when our Twitter, and then just Twitter, was ablaze with comments from people who didn't quite agree with what I wrote.

Had I known the audience that it would reach, I probably would have written it differently, but as it stands, I apparently "click baited" my way to an article that has earned a lot more page views than I have ever received and an overwhelmingly negative reaction. This is what I get for saying bad things about a conference.

Truer words, Eric...

Though the comments on Twitter were filled with plenty of the usual "takedowns" from people that likely did not read the article at all, there were plenty of great comments and solid criticisms as well. Seeing that, I wanted to take the opportunity to respond to the Twitterverse, admit some faults, and have a second chance to articulate my thoughts a little better.

This was not meant as click bait in the slightest. As I said, the thought did not even occur to me that more than the OFD community would catch wind of what I published on Saturday. As luck would have it, this is my hundredth post as a contributor for One Foot Down, so if it was clicks I wanted, surely I would've sold out dozens of posts ago to get them.

If there was one unifying theme to the Twitter backlash, it was the obvious "arrogance" of Notre Dame fans yet again scoffing at the rest of the college sports world. This was not at all the point. The only thing slightly arrogant about my post was that it came in a season in which Notre Dame is actually playing good basketball, as though I was admonishing the rest of an unworthy conference.

The truth of the matter is, I could've written almost the same exact post last year and it would have applied then as well, when the Irish were an absolute trainwreck. In fact, I filled my article with plenty of facts and figures about how this year is disappointing because it comes on the heels of a season last year that was similarly underwhelming. Notre Dame was absolutely part of the problem in the one of the two years I have a problem with; therefore, the Irish are just as "guilty" as anyone else here.

So this was my biggest mistake, and one that I would not have made had I understood the audience that would be reading this. I made the end a boo-hoo about the possible tournament implications for Notre Dame. Figuring (as usual) that this would be read by solely Irish fans, this is where I turned my focus (and, in fact, thinking about Notre Dame's resume is what got me thinking about this in the first place), but really, it did not have to be about that. The argument still stands on its own, without needing to worry about how it impacts poor, old Notre Dame.

This is part 1a of my biggest mistake, glossing over the terrible non-conference schedule for the Irish, which is likely to play a bigger role in any unfortunate seeding decisions than their involvement in the ACC. Sure, the ACC could have given them more games to brag about, but they could have themselves had they just scheduled some on their own.

Believe me, we have talked ad nauseam about Notre Dame's non-conference scheduling around here, this year and in years past, and if Selection Sunday comes and we happen to find our Irish a little lower than what we otherwise thought or expected, the non-conference schedule will be the first thing that I write about. This was not at all an attempt to absolve them of that, but I definitely made it seem that way in my article.

That said, in no universe are the Irish a "bubble team". They are a top ten team in the middle of February with only four losses. There is nothing to "blame" here, whatsoever. Notre Dame bounced back from one of its worst seasons in decades and have put together an unexpectedly excellent year so far. We Notre Dame fans are all very pleased with where we stand, thank you very much.

But, uh, well, yea. You got me. When I published this story, I Tweeted it out saying "@NDmbb has been great this season, but their conference has been anything but". This Tweet was definitely the right response.

In that context, you are absolutely correct. We got out brains beat the last time the nation had actually seen us, so to call ourselves "great" probably just looks ridiculous. It certainly hasn't been great every step of the way, but c'mon, compared to last year (or, really, to most Notre Dame basketball seasons), this one has absolutely been great. You can't take that away from us, even though, yea, that still happened.

This, however, does not make sense to me. This was probably the most frequent hostile response, and it's largely irrelevant. So what? What does that have to do with a conference that, by and large, hasn't even been able to assert itself in the regular season as the best in the country? Forget about the postseason; I want a conference that demonstrates itself over the course of the season to be the best and to litter its teams across the tournament field. That was the point of the article. I didn't spend a single word of it discussing postseason success.

But as disappointed as I might be in the ACC so far, there is not a chance in hell I'm switching to the AAC. In fact, I'm not switching to any other conference. I still feel better about the future of the ACC and its potential to be consistently great than I do any other conference. I have really enjoyed learning more about the new set of opponents and think there is, by and large, a better-looking brand of basketball being played in this conference than any other.

So no, you can have your AAC or Big 12 or Big East or any of the others; I still want the ACC.

I think most non-Notre Dame fans that are reacting to my initial article are missing some context about where some of this really comes from. When the agreement to join the ACC was announced, the conversation surrounding the basketball program was pretty dismal. I indicated as much in the article, but largely left these things alone.

The conversation was all about the ACC being too athletic (much more than the brawny Big East), with tough opponents every night (unlike the pushovers at the bottom of the Big East), and dramatically more difficult to win on road campuses (instead of playing in those NBA and multi-purpose arenas off-campus of the Big East schools).

The thinking was that the typical Notre Dame player, with Brey's style of play and level of recruiting, may have been successful in the rough-and-tumble Big East but would no longer be able to compete in the high-flying ACC. This was our expectation about the ACC. Clearly, much of this paranoia was just silly, and it's just as much our fault for buying into those narratives as it is the current members of the ACC for not living up to them.

But it goes deeper than just our misguided conversations on Notre Dame message boards. Even with all that said, do you mean to tell me that everyone out there that has such a problem with my article thinks that the ACC, post-realignment, has actually met expectations? The conference's best coach said it would be the "best conference ever". Even if you don't want to hold it to that standard, the conversation surrounding the college basketball landscape was about the inevitable reign of the ACC as the best conference in the country.

Did you really not expect the same? How could you not? A league that consistently placed 6 or more teams in the dance every season added 4 more teams that also consistently make the tournament. That should be the best conference in the country!

I just think you are lying to yourself if you aren't also somewhat disappointed that the ACC hasn't been able to do better than 6 bids last year and (likely) 6 bids this year in what was talked about as a future super-conference in college basketball. This isn't about blaming anyone in particular. This isn't saying "Notre Dame came to play, where the rest of you at?", because, remember, Notre Dame was terrible last year.

The point of my article was just to say that it is disappointing that the ACC has not been able to meet the depth and productivity of the old Big East after considerable hype and that, surprisingly, there is a credible argument to be made that it is not even better than the new Big East. It just doesn't seem like what we are watching night-in and night-out is really what we all expected.

I am not writing the conference off. I am not dooming it for failure forever, to the extent that it is even "failing". In fact, I finished the article saying "until the ACC starts placing the same number of teams in the NCAA Tournament as the old Big East, the conference will always be seen as a major disappointment", indicating that things could certainly change.

It can get better. It probably will. But until it does, based on its body of work recently, isn't this "sweeping generalization" pretty true?

I would love to see someone write an article arguing that the ACC has absolutely met expectations since realignment. If that argument is out there, I want to read it, and I could certainly be convinced that I am going way too strong in this direction.

But I just don't know what that article would look like. I did a lot of research for mine, and the picture, top-to-bottom, just isn't all that good for the ACC (go ahead, read it!). I would imagine that such an article would focus on the top-third of the conference, an absurdly good set of five teams that could rival some of the best upper echelons of any conference in recent memory.

Please, someone write it.

Maybe some of the backlash is due to me using language such as "major" and "colossal" in describing the level of disappointment. Perhaps if I had just framed my article as "The ACC has yet to meet expectations", most people wouldn't have much issue with it. I could have certainly toned down some of the "narrative" or "hot take" aspect of it, although I don't really think there is all that much of it and didn't do any of that intentionally. Sometimes the headline is all it takes, and my headline was not a very good one.

In fact, given a chance to do it again, I probably would change a lot of these things. Such is life as an amateur blogger. I get an idea, and I run with it. I do not think that the argument would really be all that different, but it might have earned a better reaction had I more closely considered not just what I was saying but the manner in which I was saying it.

Then again...

Bummer. I thought we almost had you.