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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Play-In

TIs the season.
It may have taken me a while to shift my focus to college hoops, but I'm there, and I'm there something fierce. It's a world that looks a good deal different than last year; Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame are in the ACC, the Big East is a different beast entirely, and the American is now a thing. And while I've got reason to dislike some of that, I could get used to Syracuse-Duke and some of the new ACC matchups.

Here in Tournament Town, Greensboro, North Carolina, we're gearing up for two consecutive weeks of ACC tournaments: First the women's, then the men's. This, too, will take on a different look; the now-15 team conference will add a day to accommodate the three opening round matchups. On the men's side, one ticket will get you all of the Wednesday tripleheader, plus a concert from NC State and American Idol's Scotty McCreery. My guess is that that's done in hopes of filling the stands, but even that may be a stretch. If the ACC standings remain as they are - and at the tail end of the season, there's little room for movement - Greensboro has perhaps the worst potential slate for what they're dubbing Opening Day. Five of the six teams competing are out of state, including the conference's northern, southern, and western outliers. Four of them were playing in the Big East a decade ago, with Notre Dame making its first trip to Greensboro this year. While the lone in-state presence is the closest, Wake Forest, it's also the smallest, and has the smallest fan base. It could lead to slim pickin's in the stands, but what about behind the baskets?

A big reason I enjoy attending the tournament each year is the pep bands. While I've typically caught first day action, there's been no shortage of bands present. But with the expanded tournament, might schools opt not bring them? Consider that Wednesday's games amount to a play-in situation to the tournament as we know it, and the aforementioned distance for most teams. While I wouldn't appreciate it, especially since I intend to attend games on the day, I could certainly understand forgoing the expense, travel, and missed class for a midweek game in this circumstance. I'm hoping they air on the side of an unforgettable tournament experience for all of the biggest supporters and bring the bands along.
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