UM coach Williams differs on 'neutral' site for ACC tourney

N.C. schools have home crowd in Greensboro, opponents say

March 11, 2010|By Jeff Barker | jeff.barker@baltsun.com

GREENSBORO, N.C. — — Beginning with the 1990 season, the Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball tournament has been held in North Carolina 16 times and outside the state four times.

It's a statistic well known - but not so well liked - by many Maryland fans, who believe the four North Carolina schools have a built-in advantage.

Maryland coach Gary Williams acknowledged this week that playing in the ACC tournament - this year's is at Greensboro Coliseum - is often akin to playing an away game rather than a contest at a neutral site.

"It's tough playing for a lot of the schools. You get into the semifinals and finals [and] they can be tough atmospheres - almost like a road game - for some of the other schools," Williams said.

"But that's the way it is, and you have to be able to deal with it. I think the teams that play well on the road during the season can go in and do a good job during [tournament] games," he said.

The system won't be changing anytime soon. Next year's tournament will again be held in Greensboro, followed by Atlanta in 2012. The ACC tournament returns to Greensboro in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The last time the tournament was held in the Terps' backyard was 2005, when it was played in Washington.

The 12 schools receive equal ticket allotments for the ACC tournaments.

The problem, Terps fans say, is that fans of losing teams often sell their tickets after early rounds. The recipients tend to be local residents who often end up rooting for teams in the state.

"There is a pro and a con," Maryland fan Bob Mitchell said of playing in Greensboro or Charlotte, where the tournament was held in 2008.

"When you go to Greensboro, that tournament is the center attraction and the whole town is focused on it," said Mitchell, chairman of a team support group called FOG (Friends of Gary) who plans to attend this year's tournament. Maryland, the No. 2 seed, opens Friday against the winner of tonight's North Carolina-Georgia Tech game.

"Naturally, there is a disadvantage" for non-North Carolina schools in games there, Mitchell said.

Calls to the ACC for comment were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked this week what he thought about playing in Greensboro, about 60 miles from the Duke campus in Durham.

"It's been the best place to have it," Krzyzewski said. "It's a place - a neutral site. It's where our conference offices are," he said.

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