It would appear as though this year’s iteration of the ACC Tournament has been a smashing success. In its first year at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center—home of the NBA Brooklyn Nets—there have been rivalry games, upsets, big-time performances and a whole lot of basketball. Watching a neutral court UNC-Duke showdown in the semifinals was thrilling and the cherry on top of an exciting basketball sundae. But would it have been any different in Greensboro, North Carolina?
For a myriad of reasons (political, financial, geographical, etc.), the ACC Tournament is in Brooklyn for the time being. It was in Washington, D.C. last year and, while that was fine, it seems like Barclays might be the final stop for the tourney. It makes sense in the eyes of many. Once the Big East got dismantled into parts, the ACC became the clear contender for *clears throat* best conference in the country. This year was undoubtedly the first year where no one could argue it. The ACC is the biggest and best in college basketball.
And, if the ACC is to replace and maybe even surpass the glory days of the Big East, it has to have a conference tournament on par with those historic tournaments in Madison Square Garden. Enter the Barclays Center. It is a sparkling new arena smack dab in downtown Brooklyn, perfectly ready to house the ACC and its 15 schools. The Duke-UNC game from Friday night will be an early classic and was a tremendous way to kick off the first year.
One reason that the Big East Tournament was so epic was due to the sheer amount of teams in competition for almost an entire week. Turn on ESPN Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, and you’d find a whole slate of high-energy games in the Garden. The ACC in Brooklyn should be able to capture that same magic, thanks to an incredibly deep conference with passionate fanbases all up and down the East Coast. As much as Greensboro has been a pleasure to host these teams, as the ACC ramps up its pedigree, it somewhat seems natural to move to a basketball mecca.
Still, many teams in the ACC—mainly the original ones and the North Carolina-based schools—feel a certain fondness for the old days in Greensboro and elsewhere. The conference has changed a lot over the years, and it no longer represents just a small portion of the Atlantic Coast. Now, there are Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida State, Miami and more that alter what the ACC geography actually means. For those who want the tourney in Greensboro, they want to keep the historic, proud days of the conference intact. For those who want it in Brooklyn, they’re ready for the change into an absolute basketball powerhouse.
It also helps other teams like Syracuse—looking at you Boeheim—and others with their fans traveling. No doubt, in Greensboro and other parts of the south, certain teams definitely had a major advantage with crowds and attending fans. Even if Brooklyn isn’t centrally located at all within the conference, it does represent an easier, potentially more financially viable option for all involved.
What remains to be seen is how permanent this tournament would be. Given the comments of coaches like Roy Williams, many are fine with the move but don’t think it’s all that necessary. Could the tournament continue to relocate every few seasons, perhaps allowing for better geographical representation of its now massive conference? This could be the best for all 15 teams but, again, money and publicity will win out.
With such a big conference, a rotating tournament through Atlanta, Greensboro, Washington, a city in Florida and Brooklyn could really help the ACC. It wouldn’t seem like such a large, money-making monolith removed from the community and history that make up so much of what it is today. By doing so, the ACC could still maintain a foothold in all that geographical space. A Syracuse-FSU game wouldn’t feel as weird, nor would a Clemson-Notre Dame game. It could bring the whole conference together and still keep that tight history and meaning for so many, despite how much it has changed.
The ACC is changing rapidly. It can be frustrating and disappointing for many to see it lose its southern roots and impact on a community like Greensboro, but that shouldn’t take away from the limitless potential the conference now seems to have. A move to Brooklyn can feel like a shot towards Greensboro and those ways, but it really just means the conference is moving upwards. Hopefully, in the process, the conference can still remember what made it great for so many years while taking on so many new faces and areas.