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ACC Basketball Championship Moving to Saturday Night

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Tyler Lecka

Via the ACC:

The Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament will move to a Tuesday through Saturday format beginning with the 62nd annual event in 2015.

The new tournament schedule, mutually agreed upon by the ACC and ESPN, will feature Friday semifinal games at 7 and 9 p.m. ET, followed by the championship game on Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m. All 14 tournament games will continue to be televised nationally by ESPN and the ACC Network.

Today’s announcement came in conjunction with the ACC’s annual Spring Meetings.

While next season will mark the first time since 1981 that the ACC Tournament has featured a Saturday night final, there is much historical precedent.  The first 28 ACC Tournaments featured Saturday championship games, 27 of which were played in evening “prime time” slots.  The 1982 tournament marked the first in which the conference began holding its semifinal games on Saturday afternoon, followed by the Sunday afternoon championship game.

“This is kind of a ‘Back to the Future’ moment for our conference,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “The Sunday championship game worked tremendously well for more than three decades, but I believe our schools, teams and our fans will be excited about crowning a champion on Saturday night. This will be a win-win for everyone involved – players, coaches, fans - and we greatly appreciate our television partners, ESPN and the ACC Network, working with us to make this happen.”

With the tournament now starting on Tuesday with the first-round games, the ACC regular season will conclude on Saturday of the previous weekend. Three first-round games on Tuesday, followed by four second-round games on Wednesday and four quarterfinal games on Thursday will precede the Friday semifinals and Saturday championship game.

As ACC Commissioner John Swofford notes this is a return to the way the tournament was prior to 1982. It is also bowing the realities of the TV contract in the wake of the Big East split. ESPN was left without a marquee tournament to broadcast. The ACC semifinals and championship game should provide solid ratings both on Friday and Saturday night, especially if Duke, UNC, Louisville and Syracuse are involved. Moving the tournament up a day also gives the teams an extra day of rest ahead of the NCAA Tournament.

One other note from the release is the fact the ACC regular season will now end on the Saturday prior to the ACC Tournament. Assuming UNC-Duke regular season finale continues to be a prime time game on ESPN it will officially and rightfully mark the end of the ACC regular season.