Feb. 26, 2004
The ACC tournament will be extremely interesting this season. I spoke to 900 members of the merchants' association in Greensboro, N.C., recently -- all rabid ACC fans. They have such a passion for college basketball. Greensboro will be rocking in a few weeks as the city hosts the ACC tourney.
How is it possible to predict what's going to happen? The ACC has been the best conference in America this season. The matchups should be incredible. I can't wait to get there to call the action on ESPN and ESPN2 (beginning on Thursday, March 11).
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Right now, Duke leads the ACC regular-season race with an 11-2 conference record. NC State is one game back (10-3), with Wake Forest in third place (8-5).
It will be a crime if seven ACC teams don't get invited to the Big Dance. True, of the ACC's top seven teams, at least one will have a sub-par league record. But try battling day in and day out against the likes of Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
If the NCAA Tournament selection committee is choosing the best 34 at-large teams after doling out the 31 automatic bids, nobody in the world could convince me that Maryland and Florida State aren't worthy of dancing.
I know the Terps have slid a bit recently, with three losses in their past four games, but coach Gary Williams' young team is capable of making noise in the NCAA Tournament. Florida State suffered a heartbreaking 90-87 overtime loss at Wake Forest Wednesday night (the 'Noles led by as many as 17 points in regulation).
The ACC is so tough from top to bottom -- there are no easy touches. Just ask NC State about a recent loss at the Clemson Tigers. The Virginia Cavaliers are no cakewalk either. If the Cavs and Tigers were in another conference, they'd be in the upper division.
It has been a dynamite year in the ACC, and the league tourney should be special. Can Duke make it six straight ACC tournament titles? Can Wake Forest (which last won in '96) or Georgia Tech (last ACC tourney title in '93) pull off the surprise?
Each game will have meaning, as NCAA seeding is impacted and teams try to build momentum for March Madness. Greensboro will be hopping, that's for sure, baby!
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before providing color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he has been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.