How to make the ACC Tournament great again


NOTE: Let us know what changes you would make to the ACC Tournament at the bottom of the page.


It’s a question that always comes around this time of year for ACC basketball fans.

What, if anything, can be done to improve the ACC Tournament?

And since we’re in an election year, we’ll go ahead and sort of steal a slogan from one of the more prominent candidates: How can we Make the ACC Tournament Great Again?

The answers are often conflicting, based on one’s rooting preferences, as well as where one lives.

Naturally, those living in North Carolina prefer the ACC Tournament to be held at local sites such as Greensboro and Charlotte, which often bring out huge crowds.

This year’s event is in Washington, D.C., marking the first time in more than a decade that the nation’s capital is hosting. While Virginia fans above all are likely celebrating the move north, most UNC, Duke and NC State fans would probably prefer the event be permanently moved to North Carolina.

Next year the league heads even farther north, creating more opportunity for fans of schools such as Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to join in the festivities by holding the ACC Tournament in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Although the league has never played its marquee postseason event any farther north than Landover, Maryland, the move to Brooklyn is indicative of the ACC’s effort to take advantage of its larger footprint and stake a foothold in the New York City market.

Of course, the last time the ACC went out on such a limb, holding the 2007 ACC Tournament in St. Petersburg, Florida, it was an unmitigated disaster. But given the basketball-crazed nature of the New York City region, as well as the presence of numerous ACC alumni in the tri-state area, the Brooklyn ACC Tournaments figure to be much more well-attended than the St. Petersburg fiasco.

Getting back to this year’s ACC Tournament, for the second straight year, there won’t be a full complement of teams. Instead of a full slate of 15 schools heading to D.C. next week, there will be 14 teams challenging for the ACC Tournament title, with the absence of Louisville, which self-imposed a full postseason ban this March.

Last year, it was Syracuse that elected to sit the event out.

With 15 schools, the game format is 3-4-4-2-1 over five days, whereas with 14 schools, there is only a need for two contests on the opening day, creating a 2-4-4-2-1 format.

On Tuesday, the league’s three bottom-feeders — Boston College, Wake Forest and NC State — will all take the court, along with either Florida State or Georgia Tech, in two ballgames.

Of course, it will be impossible at this point in history to bring back the era when the ACC Tournament was at its most thrilling — when a school had to run the table and win the event just to make the NCAA tournament.

From 1954, the year of the very first ACC Tournament, to 1974, when NC State brought an end to UCLA’s reign of dominance over college basketball, only one representative — the ACC Tournament champion — represented the league in the Big Dance.

It was an era in which some ACC teams made deep runs, but the conference’s prestige wasn’t nearly what it would become.

During that era, some of the greatest games in the history of the ACC were played — from the three-overtime thriller in the 1974 ACC Tournament final between NC State and Maryland, to the buzzer-beating triumph South Carolina got over North Carolina in 1971 for the Gamecocks’ only ACC Tournament crown.

Plenty of old-timers look upon this era as the golden age of the ACC — an era that will sadly never come again. But the flip side is that the lessening of the significance of the ACC Tournament with the modern expansion of the NCAA tournament created more postseason games and opportunities for even bigger glory.

The expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 32, then 48, and then finally to 64 and 68 schools, was not good for the ACC Tournament from the standpoint that it took away the similar climactic, fatalistic feelings as the old days. That’s a given.

But it’s probably safe to say that few ACC basketball fans would sacrifice their teams’ chances of reaching the NCAA tournament just to bring a little more drama to the ACC Tournament.

Think of how many great teams in league history, from Duke’s 1991 and 2015 NCAA title teams, to North Carolina’s 1993, 2005 and 2009 national championship squads, wouldn’t have even reached the NCAA tournament in the old days. That’s a tragedy in and of itself.

But unable to bring back the sheer drama factor of a single-elimination tournament, in which just one school advances to the NCAA tournament, what else could the ACC do to make the event more exciting and dramatic?

The league seemed to find a good balance through the mid-1970s, and well into the 1980s and 1990s, with its seven- and eight-team tournaments that often featured highly dramatic games with plenty of postseason ramifications.

Many fans will point to expansion earlier this decade as the point in history where the ACC Tournament lost much of its luster. Back when there were only eight or nine schools in the league, the event seemed much cozier than it is now.

But now, with as many as 14 or 15 schools competing in any given year, the first two days of the ACC Tournament have become sparsely attended affairs that are the source of derision and comedy for both fans and media alike. Tuesday in particular at the ACC Tournament has become something of a widespread joke around the league.

Back when the event could be played in just three days, with exception of the so-called “play-in” game in the 1990s with the addition of Florida State, the ACC Tournament seemed like a more prominent event.

A five-day ACC Tournament is simply too long in the eyes of many. Too long to get off of work. Too long to have to stay in a hotel and be away from home. Too long to have to watch every single team play at least once.

Thinking along those lines, could that be a potential solution to making the ACC Tournament more exciting in future years? Maybe the ACC should consider limiting the number of schools that get invited each March.

Some have suggested that the ACC treat its basketball tournament like the league’s baseball tournament, which in 2007 modified its rules to invite only the league’s top eight schools.

But the ACC baseball tournament is different in that it is a round-robin format instead of single-elimination, which makes it impossible to invite every team.

While many point to such a proposal as a way to bring more significance to the ACC Tournament — making the games more interesting and with more meaning as far as potential postseason ramifications — others suggest that the ACC Tournament should be all-inclusive and believe it would lose luster without the element of “anyone can win,” though no school ranked lower than the No. 6 seed has ever prevailed in the event.

The ACC has done plenty over the years to draw in the fans, organizing such complementary events as the ACC FanFest and other unique draws like the Legends Class, where the ACC invites numerous former stars around the conference, as well as key players from schools that have recently entered the league, to the tournament for recognition.

But what more, if anything, could more be done to make the ACC Tournament a more prominent event in the future?

What would you do to improve the ACC Tournament? Let us know what you would do to Make the ACC Tournament Great Again by sending your ideas to