The Cocktail Party
A Cocktail Party. A warm-up. A waste of time.
None of these terms are new, and most fans have more than a few ideas why the ACC Tournament has lost much of its allure. Some blame the football-led expansion and watering down of the league since 2007. Some blame the watering down of college basketball in general in that same time. Others simply miss the days when it was almost always in Greensboro and Charlotte.
Either way, the question is still always out there: Does the tournament matter? Fans often comment that no one really remembers who wins the Tourney, and that teams who do will not be criticized any less if they lose early in the NCAAs a week later.
Those statements are 100% true. But to ask if the tournament matters is to ask if sport itself matters. If the ACC Tournament doesn’t matter, what does?
In the end, sports are about competing, and (hopefully) winning championships. The rules of the games are arbitrary — we know this. The point is to compete. Period. No matter what those rules may be.
Fans weren’t (and still aren’t) in awe of Michael Jordan because he satiated the rules of basketball. We dreamed to be MJ because he was better than everyone else at whatever game the greatest athletes on Earth happened to be playing.
OK. Philosophy aside: the league tournament matters. Carolina fans tend to forget this because they so frequently have fantastically talented and veteran teams that can turn it on and off whenever they please. The 1993, 2005 and 2009 teams could have played H-O-R-S-E all weekend in their ACC tournaments and still win a national title.
But that isn’t always the case. Ask Kemba Walker’s UCONN team that used its Big East tournament run to springboard to the 2011 National Title after a very, very mediocre regular season. Outside of the top three or four dominant teams every year, the tournament gives squads another chance to get in a rhythm, or in the case of many young teams, to just figure out who the hell they are.
Phil Ford wrote this week that early weeks of March are when teams need to be playing at their best, not pretending that some games don’t matter. They all matter at this point, if not just for the chance to get better. And the ultra-seriousness of modern day sports aside, it’s just another chance to play some great basketball and try to win another title.
Newsflash: NOT A SINGLE PLAYER on the 2013 Tar Heels has ever won a tournament at UNC. Not a national title. Not an ACC Title. They haven’t even won a preseason tournament. No one in baby blue should be happy about that. And Greensboro’s Cocktail Party presents yet another opportunity to end that streak.
UNC’s matchup with Florida State on Friday is interesting in a number of different contexts. FSU just happens to be the reigning ACC Champs. And, of course, FSU just happens to be the team that kept the Tar Heels from winning the 2012 title last March.
The ‘Noles are long, tough, and freakishly athletic—like every team Leonard Hamilton has rolled out in the last half-a-decade—and will really test the Heels’ ability to score. How Roy approaches it will tell everyone a lot about where the 2013 UNC team is headed this March.
Now that Coach Williams’ cat is out of the bag as it were in terms of his lineup, his coaching chops are going to have to be on full display in Greensboro this weekend. He can do a lot Friday night to quell the criticism that he can’t adapt to his personnel.
Does that matter? Maybe. But then again, maybe that doesn’t matter. And maybe that’s OK.
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