It's been a long four days, it seems, since State's final game of the regular season.
I think a lot of folks, like myself, are eager for the ACC tournament to get underway for a couple of reasons. One, it's the ACC tournament. Two, and more importantly for State fans, it's an opportunity for the team to regain some momentum lost on Sunday. The loss against Miami still stings -- given that State was up nine at the half -- and that loss, coupled with the news that Demarcus Cousins is heading to Memphis, has allowed some pessimism to creep back in.
The tournament will put the Miami game officially behind the team and its fans.
State will face off against Maryland in a game most folks are talking about because of Greivis Vasquez's in-your-face three at the end of the game. Truthfully, though, I don't get the sense from anyone other than the media that his three was all THAT big of a deal. Compared to the furor over Mike Copeland's attempted dunk and Ben McCauley's hard foul to prevent it at the end of the Carolina game, Vasquez's three has gotten significantly less rise out of the State team, fans and coaches.
Nevertheless, it happened, and State will get a chance to redeem itself this evening at 7:00 in the third game of the day.
The 7:00 Thursday game also happens to be the only game that folks without cable can see. It's the one game ESPN has exclusive rights to -- all the remaining games can be seen on Raycom. So if you tune into WRAL or your local Raycom affiliate at 7:00, don't expect to find the game. You'll need to head over to The Duece, ESPN2. Plan accordingly.
This is a winnable game for the Pack tonight. State proved as much in its loss to Maryland at home three weeks ago when Vasquez put on a one-man show. Had the Pack simply contained Vasquez, I think State would've won that game easily. They'll attempt to do that tonight.
As State fans, you kind of feel good about your draw. The bracket shapes up nicely for a deep run if things fall your way. Maryland is a winnable game, for sure. If you get past them, Wake awaits on Friday. Wake has lost to State once this year in Raleigh and the Pack played them well in Winston Salem. A win against the Deacs would pit State against Duke, most likely, and State played the Blue Devils well in Cameron (though Elliot Williams was not in the lineup at that time and Duke has looked much stronger since his insertion). And beyond Duke, if the Pack gets to Sunday, they could be facing the winner of the FSU/Carolina game and with Ty Lawson's toe acting up (and Roy Williams' "eh" attitude toward the tournament) it could be the Seminoles the Pack faces for the title.
That's a ton of "ifs," though, and it's a very unlikely scenario. But, as we saw in 2007, stranger things can happen. We'll need a performance from someone like Brandon Costner's that year (90 points in four games) to propel us that far. Costner wouldn't be a bad choice to fill that role.
I wish the tournament meant as much now as it did when I was a child. The success of Carolina and Duke and their coaches' insistence on downplaying it has taken the shine off it some. When the ACC essentially became a two-team league, the tide of public opinion on the tournament went with them, but I know that for all the teams in the ACC not named Duke or Carolina, winning the ACC tournament is a very, very big deal, and would mean a great deal to their fanbases, as well. After all, the ACC still considers the tournament champ -- not the regular season champ -- THE ACC champion for that season. With the imbalanced schedules of today, it seems like, more than ever, a tournament is the most fair way to determine the champion for the year. But the folks in Chapel Hill and Durham don't see it that way and most folks have been content to follow their lead in downplaying it.
It's a shame, because for as long as the tournament has been in existence, demand for tickets was so great that they were never available for public sale. One could only get them through your school. Those days are gone as for the first time ever, public tickets for the tournament were made available this year. Certainly the size of the venue (The Georgia Dome) and the state of the economy have played a part in that, but the poo-pooing of the tournament's value has taken its toll, as well.
But that's just how things are these days, I suppose.