ACC commissioner Jim Phillips plans to meet with coaches, ADs to 'change the narrative' about men's basketball

Nick Schultz03/25/23
Article written by:On3 imageNick Schultz


Jim Phillips
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With Miami’s Sweet Sixteen victory over Houston Friday night, it meant the ACC clinched a berth in the Elite Eight once again. The league had five bids to the NCAA Tournament, while the Big Ten and SEC had eight apiece yet didn’t make it past the regional semifinal.

That’s why ACC commissioner Jim Phillips is calling on coaches and athletic directors to help “change the narrative” when it comes to men’s basketball.

Phillips told ESPN’s Andrea Adelson about those plans, citing the fact that the ACC has an Elite Eight team once again — Miami also advanced last year — and the perception of the conference. Multiple coaches have also sounded off about their desire for more respect, including Clemson coach Brad Brownell and Pitt coach Jeff Capel, and Phillips said he plans to lay out some ideas once the season ends.

“We have to portray ourselves in a different way and maybe it’s our scheduling, maybe it’s our providing information back to the committee, but we’re going to be aggressive in how we look at it — but we’re also going to be proactive,” Phillips told Adelson. “We feel the narrative hasn’t been quite right the last two years. We’re going to try to do something about that in the offseason.

“I get it, I’ve been on the men’s selection committee. I’ve been on the women’s committee. It’s a hard assignment, and so we’re going to try to make it easier for them from an ACC standpoint to make sure we’re structured and set up in a way where we will have more teams in the tournament in the future based on merit.”

Scheduling is a key piece of the puzzle for the ACC, which plays a 20-game conference schedule while other leagues play 18 games. With the transfer portal becoming such a key part of roster building — notably at Pitt, which landed leading scorer Blake Hinson out of the portal — Phillips said early-season games shouldn’t have as much weight as games later in the year.

“So much is put into that early season,” Phillips said. “The rosters aren’t the same as they’ve been in the past. Teams don’t look the same in November, December as they do in February and March, so this idea the conference cannibalizes each other, we’re going to have to really look at the nonconference. I’m not sure you can take as much merit from a game in November as you can late in the year. There’s a process going on for us as conferences and individual schools and with the committee.

“This new day of college basketball is really present, and the influx of roster changes really does differentiate between a team that’s returning seven or eight in the fall versus somebody that has seven or eight new players that’s going to look quite different at the end of the year.”

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips: ‘We’re paying too much attention to the NET’

In 2018, the NCAA did away with the RPI in favor of the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which uses more predictive metrics to help determine the best teams in the country. The NET is a key part of deciding which teams receive at-large bids to March Madness, and the ACC had nine teams in the top 100 of the NET as of Saturday afternoon.

But Phillips argued the NET has flaws considering the ACC’s 20-game conference schedule. That’s not part of the factor in the metrics, and he said he still takes stock in the “eye test.”

“We’re paying too much attention to the NET. I’m just not there on that,” Phillips said. “It does not reward teams that play 20 conference games versus 18 or less, and so that’s one of the things I’m hopeful in the future we don’t spend more time on or put more credence to it. I think it deserves less.

“In the end, the greatest thing we have in that committee is the eye test, and I think that’s been ignored. Go sit down and watch these games and watch who the best players are. I know the committee does that. I understand how that goes, but in the end, I don’t feel that has really resonated the last two years with our teams.”

One ACC athletic director, North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham, is on the selection committee and will hear from Phillips about what can improve the league’s perception. He also made it clear he wants things to happen sooner than later.

“I don’t want to wait until next fall,” Phillips said. “This needs to be done as soon as the season’s over so that we can get on it. We have to do more as well as a conference, we’re going to look at how we’re scheduling nonconference, and some of the metrics. I’d like to get some thoughts from a few others, too, so we’ll have a nice think tank session over this.”