"I love it all, but especially the first day or two of most tournaments, when the bracket is still big. It's so awesome to have games all afternoon and all night. I almost wish this happened every single day. Of the entire year. For the rest of my life."
As much as we love the whole tournament experience, there is one major problem with the ACC Tournament in Greensboro --- the seating. Yesterday, our Rebounders buddy, Fred, wrote on his website about his "gripes" with the Maryland-fan seating arrangements. We want to give Fred a big BasketCases shout out and let all our loyal readers know that Fred (normally the most positive guy we've ever met in the world of women's hoops if not any world any where) was not being overly critical . . . uh uhh, the treatment of the reigning National Champions' fans really was that bad! The Maryland fans' seats _ _ _ _ _ _ (6-letter word for something you did with a straw).
The problem with the ACC Tourney is this: it seems that the North Carolina teams (Duke, UNC and State) get the premium seating . . . meanwhile, the rest of the ACC teams get what's left. Maryland's 400+ fans got shoved into a corner, many of them unable even to see the scoreboard, and many more were stuck in seats in the upper level . . . and not even directly above the rest of the Maryland contingent! The BasketCases spent some time in that nosebleed section, and believe us when we tell you that the "fan experience" up there was pathetic! You almost got the feeling that the seating coordinators were still a little miffed that the Terps had the audacity to send two North Carolina teams home from Boston without any hardware last April. OK, maybe we're getting a little close to the Grassy Knoll here, but the Maryland seating was so bad that it actually led to this kind of conspiracy theory speculation among Terps' fans.
Perhaps there was a time (in the not too distant past) in Greensboro when, if the North Carolina teams' fans weren't seated in the premium center sections, the TV audience would get the impression that teams were playing in an empty arena. Perhaps that's how the North Carolina teams' seating preference developed. But that's no longer the case . . . Maryland, Virginia and other schools sent hundreds of their fans to Greensboro last weekend. Times have changed and it's time for the North Carolina seating preference to end.
So to plant some seeds for ways to address this problem, here are a couple of simple suggestions: 1) divide up the Coliseum into fan "zones" and then let representatives of each team (not the tournament committee) pick the seating section they want from the available choices in the order of the previous season's ACC regular season standings; and, 2) develop a set of rules for negotiating "trades" of zones or blocks of seats among the teams that's fair to all ACC teams and does not favor teams or coaches that have existing deals or relationships . . . give every team looking for additional seats a fair shot at those not being used by others. While there's nothing that can be done about the home-court advantage that the three North Carolina teams enjoy in Greensboro (and they surely do), there is something that can be done about the seating arrangements, and the 2008 ACC Tournament is the time for that something to begin.