CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WGHP) — The last year has been one of many changes for the now somewhat bizarrely named Atlantic Coast Conference, newly featuring six teams that do not border the Atlantic Ocean.
The conference moved its headquarters from its longtime home in Greensboro to Charlotte in 2023 and added three new member schools: Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley and Southern Methodist University
Stanford and Cal both reside on the other side of Interstate 40 in California. They come to the ACC from the Pac-12 Conference. SMU is located in Texas and comes to ACC by way of the American Athletic Conference.
Those three additions to the ACC are just the latest examples of the regionality that once defined college athletics being tossed aside as a consequence of massive conference realignment.
While the additions will increase the league’s revenue, they will also create a number of logistical challenges related to travel and scheduling. Geography is chief among those concerns.
Looking past the logistics of traveling across the United States for games, the ACC also finds itself with a numbers issue as the conference will have 18 member institutions once Stanford, Cal and SMU officially join in 2024.
ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips spoke at the ACC Tipoff on Wednesday and expressed doubt about the league inviting all 18 teams to the ACC Tournament.
“As it relates to our other championships and where will they be in the future, I think that remains to be determined. And as it relates to the scheduling part like for basketball, it varies a little bit because we’re playing 18 games on the women’s side, 20 games on the men’s side, so that all kind of factors into ultimately — I don’t know that we would invite 18 teams to an ACC men’s or women’s basketball championship.”ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips
Under the current format of the ACC Tournament, all 15 member institutions are invited and seeded in order based on their record in conference play. Seeds 1-4 get a double bye and are automatically placed in the quarterfinals. Seeds 5-9 get a single bye and are automatically placed in the second round. Seeds 10-15 receive no bye and must play one another in the first round.
The games are played over five consecutive days in the first week of March—Tuesday-Saturday for the men’s tournament and Wednesday-Sunday for the women’s tournament.
Adding an additional three teams to the tournament pool would require substantial changes to the tournament format and could require adding an additional day to the tournament; a concept that Phillips seemingly poured cold water on.
“Tuesday through Saturday or Wednesday through Sunday, that’s been a nice flow. It’s been a nice flow I think for the media. It’s been a nice flow for our teams, for fans, our staff.
“I’m not overly interested in adding one additional day. But we’ll listen to the membership and see what they have to say.”ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips
A possible solution to the problem could be the addition of qualifiers needed to earn a spot in the ACC Tournament. Teams that don’t meet the requirements will not be invited to that year’s tournament.
Phillips suggested support for the concept.
“I think you’ve got to earn your way to play in I think the most prestigious postseason basketball tournaments in the country, and if you don’t get to a certain threshold, then you just don’t make it that year.
“We’ll see.”ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips
Hypothetically speaking, the ACC could simply create a rule where the highest 15 seeds qualify for the ACC Tournament and the lowest three seeds do not. In that scenario, the tournament format could remain unchanged.
Still, even that scenario would be an unprecedented change for the league as there has never been an ACC Tournament that did not include every member institution.
Another downside of not inviting every team to the conference tournament would be the fact that it denies those teams the opportunity to win qualification into the NCAA Tournament by becoming conference tournament champions.
This is a niche scenario as the majority of teams that win their conference tournament already have amassed a resume impressive enough to earn an at-large bid. However, there are several examples of Cinderella runs in conference tournaments.
For example, the 2020-21 Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team went 9-12 in the regular season and 7-9 in Big East Conference play. That resume would not have earned Georgetown a postseason bid. However, an unlikely four-game winning streak in the conference tournament earned them the Big East title and a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The most famous example of a Cinderella conference champion is the 2007-08 Georgia Bulldogs men’s basketball team. Despite finishing in a tie for last place after going 4-12 in SEC play, Georgia unexpectedly won their conference title and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
Future of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Greensboro?
The ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament may uproot from Greensboro in the coming years, ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips suggested Wednesday during day two of the ACC Tipoff.
When asked if the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament was committed to Greensboro long-term or if a rotating model was possible, Phillips said Greensboro has been “a wonderful home for the women’s tournament and the men’s tournament,” but they are also looking at Charlotte.
“We will certainly continue to populate Greensboro with our championship, but we’re in a new home, as well, in Charlotte, and we want to take advantage of this world-class city,” Phillips said.
He added that the tournament currently has contractual agreements in North Carolina to receive funding, and the ACC intends to honor those commitments.
The conference has already announced plans to hold the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum from March 6 to 10, but the future is unclear.
The commissioner alluded to a possible announcement this fall outlining “the next three or four years with our basketball tournaments as well as our Olympic sports.”
The Greensboro Coliseum has hosted the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament each year since 2000, excluding only 2017 when the tournament was held at the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina.