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home : sports : local sports March 23, 2019

3/14/2019 9:12:00 AM
Basketball Memories

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

While there were games on Tuesday & Wednesday, the vast majority of fans will be far more interested in the games that happen Thursday, Friday & Saturday--when the championship will be played.  All the games are on ESPN and the rest of the games will also be on WBTV, channel 3.

The ACC Men's Basketball Tournament started in 1954, the first year of the new league which replaced the old Southern Conference.  The teams from UNC, Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest were all there.  The league had just eight teams in those days; the others were Virginia, Clemson, Maryland and South Carolina.  

The ACC Tournament winner is declared the conference champion.  Unlike other leagues who also recognize a regular season champ, the ACC has no such official designation.  The winner of the tournament, no matter what their regular season record, will get the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA national championship tournament.

Once again this year, I will--as I have every year since it was first televised--watch the NCAA men's basketball championship. I began listening to it on radio in 1956 when the great Bill Russell helped San Francisco beat Iowa for the championship. I heard UNC beat Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in 1957.
 I heard the games when Jerry Lucas led Ohio State to back-to-back championships in 1960 & 1961, and listened as Cincinnati won in 1962 and was upset in the 1963 title game by Loyola of Chicago. I heard Walt Hazzard lead UCLA to the championship in 1964 (beating Duke in the championship game) and John Wooden get his second as coach in 1965. I will never forget the 1967 game when the black players from Texas Western (now UTEP) beat Adolph Rupp's Kentucky team for the title in a historic game. (Duke, by the way, had lost in the semi-finals or they would have been the opponent for Texas Western in that title game. The Blue Devils won the consolation game--they played one back then.) I remember the UCLA dynasty of 1968-1973 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) who caused the rules to be changed eliminating dunking the basketball--supposed to reduce his dominance but it actually made scoring easier for him. I'll never forget the NC State Wolfpack's 1974 win over Bill Walton & UCLA and David Thompson. I had seen him play for Crest High School and knew then he was going places. In 1977 I watched as we barely missed a UNC vs UNC-C national title game. Marquette beat both to win the championship.

The ACC Tourney is still the best of the conference tournaments. Back in the day when the conference got only one team in the NCAA event, the ACC tourney winner (still officially the conference champs regardless of regular season record) was more significant than it is now. NC State used the ACC tourney championship to get into the NCAA tourney in 1983. The Wolfpack had 10 regular season losses, but they beat Wake Forest by a single point, then North Carolina (it was Michael Jordan's sophomore season, the 'Heels had won the NCAA title the year before behind James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Michael) in overtime. In the ACC title game, they beat Virginia and Ralph Sampson (beat them again in the first round of the NCAA) to take the ACC championship and an automatic NCAA bid. They went on to win the national championship as the "Cardiac Kids" topped Phi-Slamma-Jamma and future NBA All-Stars from Houston in the title game, and Jimmy V's "Never, ever give up!" became a battle cry not only for his team but later for his losing battle against cancer.

My best friend George is a Duke fan; I have a lot of friends who are Tarheel fans. George recently bought me a Florida State outfit on a trip to Florida, and I like Leonard Hamilton (FSU coach from Gastonia) so I'll wear my Seminoles gear on Thursday when they play Va. Tech and if they win (they did a week ago coming from 19 points down to take an overtime victory) and if they win Thursday, on Saturday when they play Virginia or NC State.

Here's the schedule for anyone who doesn't already know:

Quarterfinals -- Thursday, March 14
Game 8: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 NC State -- 12:30 p.m. on ESPN
Game 9: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 5 Virginia Tech -- 2:30 p.m. on ESPN
Game 10: No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Louisville -- 7 p.m. on ESPN
Game 11: No. 3 Duke vs. No. 6 Syracuse -- 9 p.m. on ESPN

Semifinals -- Friday, March 15
Game 12: Game 8 winner vs. Game 9 winner -- 7 p.m. on ESPN
Game 13: Game 10 winner vs. Game 11 winner -- 9 p.m. on ESPN

ACC Tournament Championship Game -- Saturday, March 16
Game 14 -- 8:30 p.m. on ESPN

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