Long before the ACC expanded to 15 (heck, even 9) teams, Friday's quarterfinal round of the ACC Tournament was called "Black Friday" by local residents. That's because television coverage of the ACC tournament would preempt the airing of soap operas for a day, leaving many basketball wives (husbands?) furious and in a dark mood. The 2014 Friday quarterfinal round could create dark moods for tournament organizers, as well.
Hosting the ACC Tournament in Greensboro comes with its own nightmare scenario: what if all North Carolina teams lose before the final round? Worse, what happens if all three never make Saturday's semis? A Florida State/Clemson final, for instance would be less than ideal for tournament organizers here in Greensboro. And I'm sure ESPN would be none too happy with a weekend full of coverage highlighted by a half-full Coliseum in the nation's premier conference tournament.
With Wake Forest already eliminated, that leaves North Carolina, N.C. State and Duke to carry the torch (and the economic fortunes) of the 2014 ACC Tournament. There is a palpable fear around Greensboro Friday that the tourney could be at Defcon 4 by the final buzzer late tonight. The Tar Heels have to get by fifth-seeded Pittsburgh, who create matchup problems with their sheer strength and athleticism. The Wolfpack and ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren get their rematch with No.2 seed Syracuse, which is a tough mountain to climb in any circumstance. Finally, Duke has Clemson in the nightcap and if the threes won't fall....
Also of note today in Greensboro is Jim Boeheim's first appearance in the ACC Tournament. The Orange's head man has spent all season answering questions about moving from Madison Square Garden to Greensboro in March, and I suspect the locals in the house supporting Duke and State will make the first game of the evening session a raucous affair. It may be the one of the few times one will see N.C. Stake, UNC, and Duke fans cheering together.
I've spoken much of worst-case scenarios for this weekend's tournament play, but the flip side is quite enticing. If North Carolina and Duke both advance to Sunday's final, the Coliseum will turn into a special place for the championship game. The Duke/Carolina rivalry is the Tar Heel State's Iron Bowl, and a rubber match between the two would create a buzz around here of immense proportions.