The All-Time Greatest College Basketball Players By Conference Part 1: The ACC


Storied college basketball conference

You might remember the series I did on the greatest college football players by each of the BCS conferences. It went a little something like This. Well I figured it was about time to do the same thing with NCAA basketball as we get into the NCAA tournament. And we’re starting with the champagne conference, the ACC. The conference of the immortals.

The rules are a bit different than they were for the College Football thing, largely because the very infrastructure of NCAA hoops is so markedly different than what football is.

Rule 1: Unless you are a transcendent figure, 1-year players don’t make the cut. I’m sorry. In the same way people with 1 great year don’t make the hall of fame, no one with 1 year is going to get on the list unless it was an immortal year that can’t even be fathomed.

Rule 2: For all conferences, we are doing this as they were at the start of this season. So Missouri is still in the Big 12, Syracuse is still in the Big East, and so on and so forth.

Rule 3: College and Pro Performance are measured equally. So you have to have played in the NBA and done at least reasonably well.

Boston College: Every list I’ve done like this has had one. Strangely BC has never had the kind of talent you’d expect for the main college team that grew up with the greatest basketball dynasty of our lifetime (sorry Lakers fans). I mean, this isn’t exactly a golden crop. I mean, John Bagley? The immortal Michael Adams? But after thinking about it there’s only one right answer. He was the Big East rookie of the year. And he was a better pro player than you think he was. Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatest BC Eagle of all-time: Dana Barros.

Clemson: And now we come to the inverse of the BC program. You wouldn’t think this because their perception is as the ACC’s Linebacker U. But truthfully, they are an excellent college program if you’re trying to find a burly big man who can contribute to your team for years. Tree Rollins, Dale Davis, Elden Campbell, and heck even Larry Nance. But the best answer to this is one of the greatest power forwards of the 1990’s. Ladies and gentlemen, Horace Grant is the greatest Clemson Tiger.

Duke: Sure, they are as nakedly annoying as any other college program in the country. Sure, they get hyped to almost the point of nausea by mainstream basketball media. But the most annoying part about Duke, beyond their prep-school exterior? A lot of the time, they can back it up. Think of the Blue Devils and the guys they’ve dropped into the NBA. Elton Brand. Shane Battier. Corey Maggette. But for all of this, there’s really one choice. He’s decorated as a collegian as well as an NBA player. He’s got enough accolades and trophies to make him the envy of most programs in the country. Ladies and gentlemen, Grant Hill is the greatest Blue Devil of all-time. As much as it pains me to compliment a Dookie, it’s true.

Florida State:

That’s probably what you think of when you think of Florida State right? So did I.

But truthfully, despite all of that, they actually have an underrated basketball program. Sam Cassell, Bobby Sura, Charlie Ward. But they only have one Hall of Famer. To be clear this guy was one of the most beloved players in the history of the Boston Celtics. Along with Paul Silas, Jo Jo White, and John Havlicek, he was the shining star of his own era of Celtic greatness. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dave Cowens is the all-time greatest Seminole.

Georgia Tech: Point Guard U. That’s what Georgia Tech is in instinctual fashion. Kenny Anderson. Stephon Marbury. Travis Best. But they have also developed a certain type of big man, long lanky 4’s like Chris Bosh and John Salley. But there had to be one first, and there has to be one best. Right now, if you took some of the game’s young point guards and wanted them to watch tape of a guy who knew how to play a position, you’d send them to this guy. Ladies and gentlemen, the OG of the Yellow Jackets. Mark Price.

Maryland: Before we go any further, let me say how mournful I am that Len Bias can’t be the #1 Terp. I have no doubt that if he had remained alive, we’d be talking about Len Bias in the same way we talk about Paul Pierce now. A top-5 Celtic all time, a linchpin to championship runs, and a truly important figure in the history of that franchise. So without Len to pick, where am I going to go? I could have gone with Stevie Franchise, and felt comfortable with it. Same thing with John Lucas or Albert King. But in the end, it felt right to go with one of the more underrated NBA players of his era. He played for a team with one of the coolest uniforms of all-time, the American-flag New Jersey Nets. He later contributed and starred on 2 finals teams in Portland. With a heavy heart, I submit the greatest all-time Terp to be Buck Williams.

Miami: This is so easy it doesn’t require a long explanation. The
‘Canes football program is loaded with Hall of Famers, and immortal players. The basketball program, on the other hand, has just 1. He’s one of the greatest forwards of the 1970’s. Don’t believe me? Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in history by the NBA in 1996, Barry is the only player to lead the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), ABA and NBA in scoring for an individual season. There’s no doubt he was the greatest Cane ever.

NC State: The oft-times third wheel in the Tobacco Road rivalry, NC State gets the short shrift when they really shouldn’t. One of the most inspiring championship runs in the history of college basketball didn’t take place at Duke, or North Carolina. It took place at NC State. And conversely, the original high-flying two-guard didn’t happen at Duke. It couldn’t have happened at UNC, because Dean Smith’s four-corners offense would have prevented this. With all due respect to Tom Gugliotta, Nate McMillan, and Tom Burleson, the greatest member of the Wolfpack is without doubt, David Thompson.

North Carolina: This is one of the champagne programs in one of the champagne conferences. For decades now, UNC has been at or near the top of the sport. Multiple 1st-round draft picks, a handful of Hall-of-famers, and some of the best players in the game’s history. But there’s really only 1 right answer here. With all due respect to Bob McAdoo, Billy Cunningham, or Bobby Jones, the greatest Tarheel is, depending on who you ask, the greatest player ever. He took the long line of Tarheel perimeter players (and by the way, for you young folk who are reading this you have no idea how good Billy Cunningham was in his prime. Like a bigger Manu) and took it to a level that no one has been able to reach. Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest Tarheel ever: Michael Jordan.

Virginia: This was a weird team to pick. With the exception of one era, Virginia has always been kind of just…. there. I mean they’ve had a few strong tournament runs, but they’ve sort of just existed. But with all due respect to Olden Polynice, Bryant Stith, and Marc Iavoroni, the man who created the single greatest era of Cavalier basketball deserves to be the greatest cavalier.

Virginia Tech: While Virginia has a checkered history, Virginia Tech has NO history. I mean, nothing. So this was hard. But as I thought about it more, it wasn’t hard. With all due respect to Bimbo Coles, the greatest Hokie to ever play on the hardwood is simple. it’s one of the NBA’s best shooters. Dell Curry is your all-time greatest Hokie.

Wake Forest: This is a small program, with a small armada of top-shelf NBA alumni. But with all due respect to Josh Howard, Chris Paul , Muggsy Bogues, and Rodney Rogers, there’s really only one right answer. He’s the NBA’s human fundamentals drill. If there’s an honor in the NBA, he’s won it. Finals MVP. NBA MVP. Thirteen-time All-Star. Tim Duncan. That’s the greatest Demon Deacon. End of discussion.

Thank you for reading this, and hopefully you enjoy it.

4 Responses to “The All-Time Greatest College Basketball Players By Conference Part 1: The ACC”

  1. MODI says:

    To this day, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a purer shooter than Dell Curry. Couldnt do much of anything else, but what a sweet stroke

  2. Temple3 says:


    Back than Va. Tech was in the Metro Conference, and they were Louisville’s main competition. I know you remember.

    Curry used to light them up.

  3. MODI says:

    Yeah, not in the old ACC back when folks stayed three and four years and the ACC and Big East were powerehouses.

    Nothing like the early ’80’s. Ralph Sampson was the dude minus the title and Othell Wilson not too bad either. Everybody had at least two guys: Worthy, MJ, & Perkins on NC. Bias and Adrian Branch. Mark Price and Bruce Dalrymple on GT.

    But I actually hated the ACC. Besides a Georgetown fan, whenever Big East played ACC, I rooted for the Big East, didn’t matter who. Today I don’t even know what “The Big East” means anymore. Ahhh, the good old days. Forget two guys… Big East was loaded:

    — Patrick, Wingate, Reggie Williams, Bill Martin
    — Pearl, DC, Seikaly, and Stevie Thompson
    — Mullin, Walter Berry, Mark Jax, Wennington
    — Charles Smith and Jerome Lane not too shabby either
    — F*** Villanova and their milking of the shot clock!

    …that Nova game was a loooong walk into school that next morning

  4. Ron Glover says:

    Hated ‘Nove since the ditched the Philly Big 5 after beating G-Town. Left Temple,LaSalle, St. Joe’s and Penn to supposedly rot but those programs only got better. Nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing Temple trash Nova at every opportunity during and sfter the John Chaney years.