Monday, March 12, 2018

My Trip to the ACC Tournament

As some of you know, I attended the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn last week, arriving home yesterday afternoon after a triumphant performance by my beloved Wahoos, who capped off a 17-1 romp through the league schedule (9-0 away from home) with a victory over the UNC Tar Heels in the tournament final. This was the first time I attended the ACC Tournament since I was in college (1983-87) and to be honest, while the location was convenient (I had driven up to Newport RI for business, and so I had to drive south to get home), I had some trepidation about holding the tournament there. My trepidation was unwarranted.

I stayed at a fantastic little hotel about a fifteen minute walk from Barclay's Center in Park Slope called Hotel Le Bleu. I was joined by my homie Jeff Stewart, the fellow who wore the Cavalier mascot suit when we were in college. Jeff was there as part of an extended group of other folks--mostly from Savannah GA--who were associated with another friend of ours--Tad Sanders. This Savannah group of about 20 was comprised of a bunch of folks who attended the ACC tournament every year, following their various favorites. There were Tar Heels, Demon Deacons, Wahoos, Tigers, members of the Wolfpack, and others in the group, but thankfully no Blue Devils.

The expansion of the ACC over the years to bring in teams from North of the Mason/Dixon line was something I did not care for. Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, and Notre Dame belong in other conferences, but my vote was not counted and so we have this monstrously geographically dispersed group of schools from Miami to Boston to near the southern border of Michigan. This larger group of schools appears to have driven league Brahmin to sign a contract to bring the ACC Basketball Tournament to Brooklyn last year and this year (it is in Charlotte next year, which makes sense to me). What interested me the most about the location was how utterly it swallowed up the event. When the tourney is held in Greensboro, NC, the whole city pretty much stops for it. Not so in New York. In fact, while the ACC held their tournament in Brooklyn, the Big East was holding theirs at the Garden. You could walk around Brooklyn and not know there was an ACC tournament going on, save for the old white people in their college hats and sweatshirts.

Park Slope is Ground Zero for Hipsterism, at least that is what I have read for a few years. When I realized that my hotel was in this neighborhood, the Jane Goodall in me was excited at the prospect of observing Hipsters in their natural habitat. Images of ridiculous beards, craft beers, and flannel shirts danced in my mind. The truth was--perhaps predictably--somewhat different. I found the area delightful, full of awesome little restaurants and bars. It was young--there's no doubt about that--but there were a ton of young families out walking around, kids playing in the parks I saw as I walked here and there, and tiny little two-wheeled bicycles stored on tight balconies everywhere. I got a superb Italian meal, great Bar-B-Q, and the best Chinese dumplings I've ever tasted. The people I met were unfailingly polite, and if it weren't so damn cold, I'd have spent more time outdoors.

Barclay's Center is a great place to watch basketball. UVA's first game was the first of four games played on Thursday; Jeffrey and I watched us beat Louisville, then watched Clemson beat BC and Duke beat ND. The final game of the day (UNC v Miami) started after nine, and as I had gotten up at 0400 to make my way to Brooklyn, I decided to go to my hotel to watch it (or at least half of it) in bed.

The semi's on Friday night had UVA v. Clemson and the classic UNC v. Duke matchup. We dispatched Clemson with a workman like effort leading almost the whole game, and then UNC took Duke out in the nightcap. I was hoping UNC would win--I'm a longtime UNC fan, I hate Duke with the heat of 10,000 Suns, and I think UVA matches up with them less well than they do with UNC. The final on Saturday night validated my suspicions, as the Wahoos held off UNC in a good game to watch.

So now I find myself following a team that won the toughest league in America that finished the season with half the number of losses of the next best teams (351 teams in D1 ball, 350 of them had four or more losses. UVA had 2). They are the #1 seed in the South Regional, the #1 seed overall, and are being mentioned as a Final Four team, although it seems that most analysts continue to resist making them the favorite to win. I understand their reticence--it is hard for me to process that they are this good, but the bottom line is the bottom line. They have been dominant this year, they play stifling defense and are a very efficient offensive team.

I won't be able to attend the first and second rounds in Charlotte, but if the Hoos win their first two, I'll be in Atlanta for the Regionals and if they get to the final four in San Antonio--I'll be there too. This has been a magical year thus far, and I'm gonna try to be a tiny little part of as much of it as I can.

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