Chris Graham: Ain’t never gonna happen

Teams not named Duke or North Carolina are never going to get a fair shake in ACC basketball. That’s not whining or lamenting; that’s describing reality.

It’s OK. We get it. The Duke-Carolina binary system is the linchpin of the ACC’s marketing efforts. In spite of the best John Swofford and the other suits in the ACC office have done to dilute the product in its ill-fated pursuit of BCS football dollars, basketball is what defines the ACC, and you don’t get better than Duke-Carolina.

It had to be a difficult week, then, in the office when folks looked up and saw Duke and UNC sitting squarely in a Saturday ACC Tournament semifinal as two and three seeds looking up at one seed Florida State. Florida State? The Seminoles are only here because we wanted to beef up our Weak Sisters of the Poor football lineup, and they’ve let us down the past decade or so there. FSU basketball? Step aside.

That mission was accomplished Thursday night when Duke slipped out of Tallahassee with a relatively easy win that put the Blue Devils back in the driver’s seat for a regular-season title.

The suits didn’t expect lowly Virginia Tech to almost upset the apple cart 36 hours later in Durham. but a couple of phantom fouls on Tech senior Dorenzo Hudson prevented a Hokie second-half runaway and let the Dookies fight back to post an overtime win.

Later Saturday, Virginia – long dormant, but threatening to be thorns in the side under third-year coach Tony Bennett – was doing its best to throw a wrench into the march toward the inevitable, somehow leading at the half against North Carolina despite losing star Mike Scott to two chintzy fouls, and taking another lead in the final six minutes after losing Scott to two more quick second-half fouls, including one that would have earned John Henson either a yellow card in European soccer or a Best Supporting Actor honor at tonight’s Academy Awards.

The Heels prevailed in the end, and we’re back on track now. Duke and UNC will meet next weekend for the ACC regular-season title (expect some home cookin’ from the officials in favor of UVa. when it hosts Florida State Thursday night just to add some cushion), and then a rematch in Atlanta a week later. If things go according to plan, both Duke and UNC will get #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament for what will seem like the millionth time, and ride off into the sunset after suffering an early-round upset. (Because, as those of us who have watched the ACC regularly this year know, and know well, neither is Final Four material, not this year.)

For those of us who are fans and alums of ACC schools not named Duke and North Carolina, life goes on as always. We bitch and moan when we play one or the other and lose after watching the big boys shoot 10 to 15 more free throws. We vow to flood the ACC offices with emails and petitions aiming to let them know that we won’t take the BS anymore. We snort and giggle when we see the big boys go down, or bitch and moan some more when Ol’ Roy or Coach K gets to cut down the nets after a national championship about how much easier it is to get there when you get to play a stacked-deck conference schedule.

But we never really do anything that will actually have an impact – like, I don’t know, boycott en masse the season tickets of our favorite schools, to send a message with our wallets and pocketbooks that if the ACC is going to keep shoving the same crap down our throats and telling us to like it, well, then, eff you, we don’t like it.

We’ll keep filling up our arenas and root like hell when we play each other, because at least then we’re on equal terms, and then when Duke and UNC come to town, we’ll fill the seats up then, too, on the off-chance that the refs won’t foul us out down to our walk-ons if we get a big lead, and we can rush the court in celebration of a win over the hegemons of Tobacco Road.

As long as we keep acting like the sheep that we are, change in the ACC ain’t never gonna happen.



uva basketball team of destiny

Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.



 
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