03/11/09 — Opinion -- ACC allure not that of Big East

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Opinion -- ACC allure not that of Big East

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 11, 2009 1:46 PM

The pageantry. The drama. The intensity. The must-see matchups.

All these ingredients have made the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament arguably the most anticipated and entertaining conference tournament over the past 25 to 30 years.

This isn't "most years."

As the ACC tournament gets underway in Atlanta on Thursday, the 56th installment lacks an intriguing matchup in each of the first two rounds, a legit underdog capable of winning it all or a location that's geographically reasonable.

Meanwhile, the Big East tournament boasts at least three national title contenders, several enticing potential showdowns, a much deeper field and the lure of playing in Madison Square Garden.

The ACC's first round consists of Virginia Tech versus Miami, Clemson meeting Georgia Tech, Maryland battling N.C. State and Boston College squaring off with Virginia.

Boston College and Clemson are the only teams competing on day one of the ACC tournament believed to be currently locked into the NCAA's.

The other six squads competing in Atlanta on Thursday have either little or no chance of qualifying for March Madness outside of capturing a very unlikely ACC tourney title.

Meanwhile, the Big East tournament's first round contains three teams -- Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown ... yes Georgetown -- that are each capable of playing themselves into the big dance. But Cincinnati and Georgetown lost Tuesday, possibly leaving the Irish in position for an at-large bid.

Day two off the ACC tournament also lacks potential ratings boosting matchups, despite the fact that a Clemson and Florida State contest would be highly competitive.

Top-seeded Carolina takes the court at noon while most fans will find themselves stuck at work. Wake Forest will either face an N.C. State team that can't have its season end fast enough or a Maryland club that had its NCAA bubble burst with a loss at Virginia over the weekend.

Duke won't take the floor until 9:30 or later on Friday night and will meet a Boston College squad unlikely to upset the Blue Devils twice this season, or lowly Virginia.

Four times since 2001 a team seeded fifth or higher has advanced to the Big East tournament finals. The odds of an ACC team making a similar run in Atlanta seem slim considering seeds 5-12 are a combined 8-18 against the top three seeds, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke.

Louisville, Pittsburgh and Connecticut are the Big East tournament's top three seeds. Each are ranked in the top five in the country and are all legitimate national title contenders.

Watching two of the these three juggernauts go at it for a Big East title on Saturday night is the type of high-profile matchup ACC fans can only hope to witness on Sunday afternoon.

The ACC's decision to not hold its conference tournament in either Charlotte or Greensboro for the third time in the past five years is questionable at best. Only nine times since its inception in 1954, has the ACC tournament not been held in North Carolina.

I would argue that the ACC schools not based in North Carolina have proven themselves to be "football schools" that aren't consistently competitive in the conference tournament. Also, these same schools have historically lacked fan bases willing to travel to Greensboro or Charlotte.

Until moving a tradition from where its roots run deep is justified, leave the ACC tournament where it should be. The tournament has provided a library's worth of storybook moments over the past 56 years and created legends small children dream of growing up to emulate.

But this is not one of those years.