I’d forgotten how much I hate, no, make that loathe, the Atlantic Coast Conference until around 2 o’clock this afternoon – right around the time that Tyler Hansbrough wrapped up J.T. Thompson in a bear hug and somehow ended up getting a jump ball called that preserved North Carolina’s asterisked 79-76 win over Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
And no, it wasn’t the bear hug that has me done watching this exhibition for the weekend and perhaps forevermore. And it wasn’t the three fouls – three! – that Carolina had assessed against it when Tech got the ball back down one with 35 seconds to go, three fouls in the face of a level of physicality on the court involving both teams that had coaches Roy Williams and Seth Greenberg and players on both teams in constant bark mode and significantly had Hokies stars A.D. Vassallo and Jeff Allen on the bench for long stretches of the second half in foul trouble.
It was this rather wry observation that I offered out loud midway through the second half when it appeared briefly that Virginia Tech was about to take control.
“My guess,” I said, “is that they’re going to have a lot of empty seats the rest of the weekend once Carolina is out of this thing.”
I’ve been to enough ACC Tournaments to know that to be true. Of the seven I have attended in person, just one had Carolina out before the final, and everybody who has been to an ACC Tournament knows that as the other schools drop out their sections get filled with Carolina blue to the point that by Sunday whatever arena is host to that year’s exhibition is little more than a Dean Dome Annex.
Give ’em credit, I say regarding Carolina fans, because they travel well. I’ve been saying that since my last Tournament trip, to Tampa in ’07, which was the Capital of the State of North Carolina South for the weekend as the Heels rolled to another ACC Tournament championship that year.
But am I the only person who wonders how Hansbrough can flop and fling and bull and gawk around the way he does and end up with exactly two personal fouls on his box score like he had today? There’s a point of contention. Another – Vassallo and Allen and their fourth fouls. Vassallo’s cheapie came when he ended up on a switch on Wayne Ellison, who blew by him on his way to the basket and got a whistle on his way to an otherwise unmolested layup. That one took Vassallo out for several minutes moments after Allen’s cheapie on a pass that sailed over Hansbrough’s head out of bounds out near the three-point line on the left wing following some back-and-forth between Hansbrough and Allen that was at best a no-call and honestly could have gone against Hansbrough as much as it should have gone against Allen.
Those two calls took the momentum away from the Hokies right around the time I had mused aloud at how empty the Georgia Dome would be without UNC there on the weekend. I’d like to say it was coincidence, but seriously, I’ve been watching ACC basketball since Ralph Sampson’s rookie season, and today was just par for the course as far as the BS that is the ACC Tournament is concerned goes.
I hope the Heels gets a lot out of the #1 NCAA seed that John Swofford has arranged for them yet again. It’s a foregone conclusion to me that they’re winning on Sunday, so I won’t need to get all the gory details.
I hear there’s a big pro wrestling show on the TV this weekend, which, sure, is also something where the outcome is prearranged, but the promoters of that one aren’t so arrogant as to pretend that it’s anything else.
– Column by Chris Graham