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The Tournament

Today marks the start of a North Carolina cultural institution.

When I was growing up, our teachers would hurry to get their names on the A/V request list, in hopes of getting a television brought into their classrooms on what was usually the first Friday of March.  The ACC men’s basketball tournament was that big a deal.

According to my kids, teachers don’t watch the Tournament in class anymore.  For that matter, basketball fans – even ACC fans – can’t really refer to it as just the Tournament anymore, and expect listeners to know they’re referring to the conference tourney, not the NCAA.

We’re a generation past the days when only the tournament champion was invited to play for the NCAA title.  Conference expansion means the ACC stretches from Miami to Boston, but it’s diluted the intensity – some say the quality – of ACC basketball.  NCAA tournament pools have become a national phenomenon, eclipsing the conference tournaments.  Even UNC coach Roy Williams, a North Carolina native and UNC alum, dismisses the ACC Tournament as little more than “a cocktail party,” and feels it’s a distraction and a drain on his team when they should be preparing for the national brackets.

(Is it ironic – or symbolic – that Chicagoan Mike Krzyzewski embraces the ACC Tournament, when Asheville’s own Ol’ Roy disdains it?)

As luck would have it, I’m going to Greensboro today, but for a meeting about the NC Literary Hall of Fame, not for the Tournament.  The ACC Tournament will be played in its spiritual home, the Greensboro Coliseum, this year.  I still have trouble remembering that the ACC Tournament starts on Thursdays now, not on Fridays.

Though not as big a deal as it once was, the ACC Tournament is one of those annual occurrences with the power to remind me that North Carolina is my home, and I am grateful for that.

Meanwhile, a panel yesterday asked if Charlotte is – or can be – the cultural capital of the South.  The city just hosted the NCWN Fall Conference; what more can you ask for?