Rivalry Week included Round 1 of the Duke-North Carolina series Wednesday night, but the ferocious bear we recently knew as Atlantic Coast Conference basketball is, at best, hibernating.
The ACC is just another major college league now, a top-heavy operation rated fifth among all conferences in the latest Sagarin computer poll.
Southeastern Conference football, meanwhile, basks in the glow of an Alabama-LSU national title bout and Signing Day overload.
By the way, Eli Manning went to Ole Miss. Auburn's Heisman Trophy quarterback Cam Newton just saved the Carolina Panthers franchise. That Tebow guy is a Florida Gator.
ACC basketball and SEC football were widely considered relatively equal brands before the SEC's run of six straight national titles started with Florida in 2006, with the slight nod going toward hoops.
Three reasons for the separation of powers:
1. Rules. College basketball's "one and done" concept for freshmen -- allowing for one year of college play before jumping to the NBA -- has smudged the ACC. But a tweaked postseason football system including conference championship games and a BCS title game has helped the SEC.
2. Expansion. The SEC before the recent additions of Missouri and Texas A&M stayed true to its Deep South roots. ACC basketball suffered from the league's football-motivated play for a New England to Key West audience.
3. Leadership. ACC schools have yet to improve on Bobby Cremins, Gary Williams and Rick Barnes. The SEC has national title winners Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Les Miles and Gene Chizik.
The ACC is banking on incoming members Syracuse and Pittsburgh for the kind of basketball boost Florida State and Miami have not consistently delivered in football. But with expansion comes a jolt to rivalries, including trimming to just one North Carolina-N.C. State basketball game per year.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski likes the ACC's recent additions, but took a shot this week at past expansion moves.
"I'm in full agreement with what the league is doing in that I think it was a mistake that we made when we added three teams about 10 years ago, in that we didn't brand the whole conference," Krzyzewski said. "It's not just the traditional rivalries. Again, we made up rivalries at that time by having two permanent partners. I think it showed that two teams were more important than the rest of the conference. I think that hurt us."
Coach K long has advocated the appointment of a college basketball commissioner, a swell idea overdue.
The BCS system legislates against the underdog, greed that works well in Tuscaloosa and Baton Rouge.
The one-and-done rule favors mid-majors. It made an impact after the NBA altered its minimum age to 19 in 2005. It keeps traditionally good programs from holding onto stars for three or four years.
Now we have the likes of George Mason, Butler and VCU in the Final Four. VCU head coach Shaka Smart raised eyebrows and ire at ACC member-schools Virginia and Virginia Tech last week with a statement that would have been stunning a half-decade ago.
"If you go by the numbers, if you go by postseason, if you go by even guys going to the NBA, the best programs in the state are in the (Colonial Athletic Association)," the former Clemson assistant coach said. "It's really not even close."
Between the 2000 and 2006 seasons, the ACC had nine consensus All-America basketball players: Maryland's Juan Dixon, Wake Forest's Josh Howard and Chris Paul, North Carolina's Joseph Forte and Duke's Shelden Williams, J.J. Redick, Jason Williams, Shane Battier and Chris Carawell.
From 2007 to 2011, there were two, North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough (three times) and Duke's Nolan Smith (last season).
The SEC had 10 consensus football All-Americans in 2011, including USC defensive end Melvin Ingram.
Maybe the ACC will bounce back in its reconfigured way. Updated ESPN.com basketball recruiting rankings have eight current or future ACC schools in the top 23 for the current class.
But, stunningly, Duke this season has offered student tickets for sale to the general public because there aren't quite as many Cameron Crazies.
Outside SEC football stadiums, they keep building statues.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter at @sapakoff.
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