Scott German previews the 2021 ACC Tournament: It’s back, and we’re all better for it
The ACC Tournament tips off Thursday. OK, technically, it begins Tuesday with the conference has-beens (looking at you, Duke) getting their politically correct opportunity to win the tourney championship.
In years past, most tournaments were like watching the Olympics, with preliminary games leading up to the medal games and ultimate Saturday championship clash.
Having attended many tournaments in past years, from Washington D.C. to the Gulf Coast of Florida, this year’s tourney, despite its warts, is the most welcomed event in these parts in many a year.
I happened to be in the Greensboro Coliseum last March when the tournament was canceled on Thursday at the beginning of the pandemic. I watched ACC Commissioner John Swoford, wiping tears from his eyes, award Florida State the conference championship.
I then, in a daze, had a late lunch with some colleagues and made the three-hour drive home to Central Virginia. I could not even remember the name of the restaurant or the drive. All that was in my mind was that basketball was suddenly and dramatically over.
But fast forward a year, an exceptionally long year, and we are back to where we started, or finished – the Greensboro Coliseum, the mecca of college basketball at least in dixieland.
Enough lamenting on the past, focusing on this year’s tournament, it is a proverbial gunfight. A slightly weaker double-bye top, and a sneaky dangerous bottom, will give us more than our fair share of nail-biters and upsets leading up to Saturday evening.
Fifteen teams (we hope) in Greensboro, with about 12 with reasonable hopes of cutting down the nets come week’s end. While Florida State and Virginia are the favorites, neither dare not look back at the very capable field chasing after them.
The 2021 ACC tourney is far more than a social event this year. In years past, as many as eight to nine teams had all but punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament,
Not the case this season.
With only three teams ranked in this week’s AP Top 25 (UVA, FSU, VT) and a virtual lock for the Big Dance, the remaining field has to play its way to Indianapolis.
Some huge questions remain to be answered. Can Duke navigate down Interstate 85 to Greensboro on a Tuesday? Will North Carolina ride the emotion of a win over Duke Saturday night and a season sweep of the Blue Devils to a deep run in the tournament?
How about Virginia, the defending national champions? The Cavaliers finished strong with a regular-season-clinching win in Louisville Saturday. UVA is riding a six-game postseason winning streak that left off in Minneapolis in the 2019 national title game against Texas Tech. Has Tony Bennett conjured up just the right potion in his lab for Virginia to strongly defend its title?
Those questions and many others will begin to get answered Tuesday at noon. After a long year, the Greensboro Coliseum opens its doors, and despite a limited number of fans being allowed in it is a beautiful site.
Story by Scott German