As a member of the Pitt Band, I was lucky enough to be able to travel with the Pitt Men's Basketball this past week to Greensboro, NC for the ACC Tournament. It was a great overall experience and I recommend going next year to everyone reading this. Here's a few of my takeaways from the week:
Greensboro certainly is not New York City, but no one expects it to be. Getting to and from the Greensboro Coliseum was easy, and overall the city is very affordable. The city is very welcoming and gives that "Southern Hospitality" feel wherever you go, and they pride themselves on being the "Tournament Town" for being a great host every year. Recommendations: Stamey's BBQ and Natty Greene's (the beer is everywhere and a bar downtown).
The basketball was fantastic, obviously you can watch this at home, but feeling the sense of importance and urgency in the Greensboro Coliseum was fantastic. There is a huge passion for ACC basketball on display and plenty of fans (mostly from the Carolina schools) to show it. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to stay for the other games, but the Pitt games provided plenty of excitement each day that I'm not sure if I could've handled any more. Talib Zanna obviously showed us all a lot this week, and seeing him do it in person was unbelievable. He was dominant, especially against UNC, he played harder than ever and I could see his passion during the games. Finally, seeing UNC fans walking out of the Coliseum with their heads hanging and time left on the clock felt wonderful.
Home Court Advantage:
This may have been the biggest home court advantage I've ever experienced for a "Neutral Site" game, and that includes the BET game against Syracuse last year. It's not surprising, but UNC fans were more than dominating the crowd against Pitt (I would say Pitt had 1/6 of the fans that UNC had at the game, at best). The next day, the same thing with UVA fans. Duke, UNC, NC State, and UVA fans were everywhere and definitely some of each at every game. I have to imagine this was a big reason why the ACC Tournament is not staying in Greensboro. The advantage is extremely apparent at these games, and even in the future there will be a lot of Duke and UNC fans in Brooklyn, but it has to be assumed that more fans of other schools will be open to making a long trip to New York City to support their team rather than Greensboro.
Next year will be the final ACC Tournament in Greensboro, and it should be great again. 2016 it will be hosted in Washington, D.C. and it looks like 2017-18 will be in Brooklyn. Each of these three locations will give this tournament three completely different environments. I would recommend going to Greensboro and seeing how passionate the various Carolina school fans are, it's fantastic. Washington, D.C. should be more balanced. I know I will try to make the trip to the Verizon Center to see the tournament in two years and I expect more Pitt fans will be able to make that trip as well. Finally, we all wanted this, and it seems to be coming, conference tournament basketball in New York City. The Syracuse faithful will have their advantage again, but moving this tournament to Brooklyn will put it on an even bigger stage. I hope it gets to the level that the Big East Tournament was at for a long time. The best basketball conference playing a tournament in the basketball capital of the world. How can it get any better? It can't. While I think DC is a fantastic location for the ACC tournament, I'm glad it will make it's way up to NYC. Every team will have fans that want an excuse to go to New York City and it should be a very neutral site for most of the games.
Again, I recommend Greensboro to everyone for next year's tournament, it was a great experience. ACC Basketball is great and it will continue to have a great tournament and even get better over the next few years in various locations. While there was an impressive number of Pitt fans, Pitt struggled to get a huge fan base this year and I hope this might encourage a few on the fence to go next year to experience it and show those Carolina schools that Pitt has great fans, you won't regret it. As for me, I'll be basking in the 80 degree weather when I head down to Orlando tomorrow and playing and yelling like crazy for our Panthers to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
Hail to Pitt.