The ACC has gone 12-1 in the opening two rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, placing a record six teams in the Sweet 16. Since none of those six teams play each other in this round, there is the chance for all six to advance to the Elite 8. And yes, the idea of an all-ACC Final Four -- however far-fetched that may seem -- is still a possibility.
Given the hardwood success, given that a pair of ACC teams take the floor Thursday night for Sweet 16 games and, of course, given that we cover football matters here in the ACC blog, we decided to take a look at some of the best football/basketball combo players from the six remaining league schools.
Duke: Greg Paulus. Does the former Blue Devils point guard really count, since his exploits came at two different schools? And, considering Paulus' football experience came under center at Syracuse, shouldn't he be credited to the Orange as well? (More on them in a bit.) All of these are fair questions. But Paulus was a three-year starter for Duke and a starting quarterback during his only year with Syracuse. He averaged 11-plus points in two different seasons at Duke and made two Sweet 16s. In his lone year with the Orange, Paulus completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 2,025 yards with 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Miami: Jimmy Graham. It's remarkable to think that the future All-Pro tight end played just one year of college football at a place as historically good as The U. Graham never averaged better than 6.0 points for the Hurricanes' basketball team between 2005-09. But he made enough of an impression the following season for Randy Shannon's football club, catching 17 passes for 213 yards and five touchdowns. Graham was a third-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
Notre Dame: Tough call here considering the lack of basketball-football combos in South Bend in the modern era. (Though the Fighting Irish haven't lacked for baseball combos: Jeff Samardzija and Pat Connaughton are two recent examples.) We'll settle on three names who are etched into Notre Dame lore: Moose Krause, Johnny Lujack and Paul Hornung. You may know the latter two as Heisman Trophy winners, but Lujack (1943-44) and Hornung (1954-55) played hoops, too, with Lujack actually playing four sports in one season. (He ran track and played baseball as well.) Krause, the former Fighting Irish athletic director, earned All-America honors as a football tackle and basketball center.
North Carolina: Julius Peppers. The future All-Pro end/linebacker averaged 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in two seasons as a walk-on basketball player from 1999-2001, making the Final Four as a freshman. For the Tar Heels football team, meanwhile, Peppers ended up becoming a unanimous All-American in 2001, a year that also saw him take home the Bednarik and Lombardi awards. Of note: Peppers had a future NFL teammate on both teams. Eventual Oakland Raiders receiver Ronald Curry was a UNC quarterback and point guard.
Syracuse: Jim Brown. With all due respect to Donovan McNabb -- who was a member of the Orange basketball team that made it to the 1996 national title game -- it is impossible to argue against Brown, who excelled in football, basketball, lacrosse and track. Brown was a unanimous first-team All-American running back in 1956, and he averaged 13.1 points in two years with the basketball team. His NFL career, meanwhile, became the stuff of legend.
Virginia: Terry Kirby. The eventual 10-year NFL running back lettered for the Cavaliers' basketball team in 1990 and 1991. During his day job on the gridiron, Kirby set the Cavaliers' career record for rushing yards (3,348), a mark that would eventually be broken.