The ACC is going back to its roots in one way, while the ACC Tournament expands into a brash new era. As the event makes its way to New York City in future years, the conference has decided to return to the tournament’s championship game to Saturday night, officially announcing the move on Tuesday morning. The ACC Tournament final was played on Saturday night almost exclusively through the early part of the tournament’s history, but it was moved to Sunday afternoon in 1982 where it has been since.
It’s not as if having it on Sunday was such a bad thing. Those interested in high-level college basketball were going to watch the ACC final almost no matter what, especially if it worked out that the matchup was Duke–North Carolina, UNC-NC State or Duke-anybody, really. But moving the event to a Saturday night final puts it prime time, which potentially makes the tournament more appealing to advertisers and more valuable as a television property. It also won’t hurt with recruits.
While the 2015 tournament, the first which will feature the Saturday final, is in the ACC’s unofficial home of Greensboro, N.C., the event leaves the South entirely for the following three years. In 2016, the tournament returns to Washington, DC and the Verizon Center for the first time since 2005, when Duke (led by J.J. Redick) beat Georgia Tech in the final. In 2017 and 2018, the ACC tournament makes its grand New York debut, with the Barclays Center hosting both editions. The ACC tournament has not ventured that far north since the event was played at the old Capital Centre in Landover, Md., in 1976, 1981 and 1987.
Having the ACC tournament on that big a stage under the bright lights in Brooklyn, in prime time on Saturday night, is sure to draw a ton of eyes to the event. There is a potential, of course, for a straight-up clash with the Big East Tournament title game, which has been played at Madison Square Garden on a Saturday night for decades. But with the ACC having raided the Big East of some of its star power (Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame) and other top programs not invited into Big East 2.0 (Connecticut, Louisville), the ACC will likely be the headlining event. And if there’s one city that could handle both, it’s New York.
There’s very little downside to this move by the ACC and it’s the right thing to do. It gets more eyes on the product and returns the final to what was really its traditional time slot, even though that goes back a couple of generations. Combined with the move north for a couple years, it brings the entire northeast into play on an even greater level with regard to recruiting. This is a smart move by the conference.