As the NCAA Tournament begins I am watching it as a member of the ACC for the 1st time. My Syracuse Orange had a terrific regular season even though they stubbed their toe at the finish.
I was down in Greensboro for the league tournament and experienced my first visit to Cameron Indoor for the SU/Duke game. As a kid growing up I was a fan of the ACC and as an NBA player got to play against and with many ACC alums.
I must admit that Greensboro is not New York and Madison Square Garden. While it is a neutral site, it certainly does not score very high on the pizazz meter.
At first I was against the move from the Big East to the ACC since the Big East was such an awesome basketball conference. I finally realized hat the Big East I knew and missed didn't exist anymore and it was time to move on. ESPN just aired a 30 for 30 movie on the rise and fall of the Big East Conference and a few themes really stood out.
First of all was the love that each of the coaches and league officers had for the league. There was a spirit of league first that was embodied on the court. The coaches were tremendous and eastern basketball was on display with all of its toughness, competitiveness, and passion. The league tournament was in Madison Square Garden and was an event!
In a few short years the conference became the best basketball conference in the country with 3 teams in the Final Four in 1985.
Eventually though the football gods took over the conference and soon the league lost what made it special. While many teams still prospered with SU and UConn winning National titles, the league finally collapsed. Jim Boeheim said it best when he commented that the Big East that Syracuse left no longer resembled the Big East that had been founded 30 years earlier. He had given everything he had to the school and the league. It was interesting when he mentioned that he didn't feel that he owed anybody anything or was owed anything back. The slate was complete.
The new ACC combines the best of the tobacco road teams and the cream of the old Big East with Syracuse, Pitt, and now Louisville joining Boston College and Notre Dame in the conference. I look for the ACC to improve with these new additions as recruits can now play in New York, Boston and other major eastern cities. With the conference tourney going to Brooklyn in coming years the ACC has a lot to offer top high school stars. I can see a time in the next couple of years where there are 10 ACC teams in theTop 25.