Commentary : The ACC Did the Tournament First--and Still Does It Better

The Washington Post

So, Big East writer, still have your wallet? Better check it again. After all, you've been in New York for a few days now. Lots of fun up there fighting for cabs, dealing with rude ushers--not to mention those lovely Madison Square Garden cops.

By the way, have you done any reporting yet in anyone's locker room after a game? In the Big East, if you haven't got a TV contract or aren't a corporate sponsor, your best chance of getting more than five minutes with a player is to be an agent.

In truth, the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference are two great basketball leagues. The difference is that one of them invented the postseason tournament; the other one is just another in a long line of copycats.

One thing I will agree with you on, and that is Landover, Md. The ACC tournament was born and bred in North Carolina, and it always should be held there. The ACC tournament belongs in Landover like Fawn Hall belongs behind a typewriter.

Having it at the Capital Centre is a joke for a number of reasons, among them the fact that I think it's one of the worst basketball facilities in the world--topped only by the dreadful parking, which was topped the last two times the tournament was here only by the incredibly awful "Hi Y'all" buttons the ushers wore.

Anyway, let's pretend the ACC is where it belongs--Greensboro. To me, the start of postseason play means it's spring. Show me spring in New York. In Greensboro, most of the time, opening day is a gorgeous day and everybody takes their time making their way into the building.

There's no need to rush because there are no traffic problems. No one takes a taxi because in Greensboro there is something called parking for less than $20 a day.

As for all the people standing around holding up signs or fingers looking for tickets, that's what we call tradition. The ACC, you see, is about tradition. Thirty-three years worth. The league was not invented solely for the purpose of making money and getting on television. Sure, the ACC has corporate sponsors, but not like the Big East. For crying out loud, the Big East has an official corporate sponsor of its corporate sponsors.

It has a commissioner, Dave Gavitt, who takes TV timeouts while eating dinner. And, while we're on the subject of Gavitt, how can you defend a league that puts its commissioner on television as a color commentator? Give me a break. I would buy your Billy Packer line if not for that. Packer might be wrong a lot, but at least he isn't being a shill for someone when he's wrong.

More on tradition. You say Syracuse has tradition? What tradition is that? The tradition of always choking in the NCAA tournament? How many national championships has tradition-laden St. John's won? You say Wake Forest doesn't have tradition? Check the history books.

As for depth, sure North Carolina is clearly the class of the ACC. Should the league apologize for having a legitimate top five team? Is it the ACC's fault that it doesn't have merely a bunch of solid muckers from No. 1 to No. 6?

Actually, it's interesting this season because, if you take North Carolina out and take the next five ACC teams and the top five Big East teams, it's probably pretty even. Villanova? Come on--how did it do against Virginia? The margin was 29 points. Seton Hall got a couple of fluke victories over Georgetown and beat Upsala nine times to have a better than .500 record. Boston College and Connecticut? Their game last week was a don't miss.

As for individuals, Reggie Williams is a great player. But if you prefer Mark Jackson over Kenny Smith, your vision should be checked. You might ask a few NBA scouts about that one. As for Matt Brust, I'm delighted he got out of North Carolina and went somewhere he was needed.

Let's talk officiating for a minute. First of all, half the ACC officials work the Big East and vice versa. But you have to admit you've never seen an ACC official eject someone and then back out of it in a championship game. You were there in 1984 when John Thompson scared the officials into un-ejecting Michael Graham.

Finally, your reference to the 1982 championship game. No one was more offended by Dean Smith's stallball than me. But all it does is show the influence of the ACC that one messed up final can change the direction of the entire sport. That's how important the ACC is.

By the way, give us a call Friday night. We'll be sitting around hoisting a few, trading stories. Call us, if you can fight your way through the hordes at whatever $6-a-drink bar you're at without losing your wallet.

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