The Atlantic Coast Conference is the king of The Associated Press all-time Top 100.
Led by blue bloods at the top and backed by years of dominance in college basketball, the ACC had more teams ranked and more No. 1s than any other conference through 68 years of the AP Top 25 poll.
“It was just an incredible conference,” former Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “Between Dean Smith and North Carolina and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, there was no easy way to go if you wanted to be successful. In the meantime, teams like Wake Forest add a Tim Duncan, North Carolina had good teams, Clemson had success and you just had to deal with it.”
For the first time, The Associated Press is using data from more than 1,100 weekly Top 25 polls to rank the best programs and conferences.
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The AP’s formula counted one point for each poll appearance to mark consistency and two points to acknowledge elite programs. A total of 200 schools have been ranked and 59 have been No. 1, starting with Saint Louis in 1949.
The ACC ruled the all-time rankings by earning 3,445 points for appearances, 272 for No. 1 rankings. The Big Ten was second, finishing more than 300 points behind, but was well ahead of the SEC, which was more than 700 points behind in third.
The ACC’s claim to the all-time poll throne starts with North Carolina and Duke.
The Tar Heels were second overall among all teams — behind Kentucky — in total points and had 110 teams ranked No. 1, fourth-most in history. Duke was third overall and in No. 1 rankings with 129.
More than just the top two, the ACC has been consistently strong all the way through the conference, from the days when Williams’ Terps were still in the league — they moved to the Big Ten in 2014 — until league added powerhouse programs like Louisville, Syracuse and Notre Dame.
“When the ACC expanded and brought in teams like Louisville and Syracuse, those teams are perennial winners no matter what league they are in,” Williams said. “So now in the ACC, you can go eight, nine deep with teams that can play and are some of the best teams in the country.”
Realignment in recent years has shifted the makeup of conferences across the country, with dozens of teams bolting for new leagues and better opportunities.
The AP formula accounts for the shifting of the conference tides by only awarding points while a team was in a particular league. So, for instance, when Louisville was ranked No. 1 during the 2012-13 season, the points go to the Big East, not the Cardinals’ current conference, the ACC.
Realignment also led to a shifting of conference tides.
The Big East and American Athletic Conference were not counted as a single conference since the 2013 split created two separate conferences, with the new Big East retaining the basketball records when they exited. The Big East ended up fourth overall.
The Pac-12 was sixth overall when combining its previous incarnations, the Pac-8 and the Pac-10. The league expanded to the Pac-12 when Utah and Colorado joined in 2011.
Regardless of conference combinations, the Big Ten was a solid No. 2 in the all-time rankings.
The conference was third in all-time No. 1s — the Kentucky factor helped the SEC to second — but was right behind the ACC in all-time appearances with 3,390.
Indiana led the charge in the Big Ten, earning 662 total appearances and 27 No. 1 rankings to come in at seventh all-time. The Hoosiers won national titles four times since the poll started — five overall — but those don’t count toward the rankings since the AP poll stops at the end of the regular season.
Illinois and Michigan State were not far behind, giving the Big Ten three of the top 11 teams in the all-time poll.
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