The 60th installment of the ACC tournament began Thursday in Greensboro, NC., and this year is especially significant. With the addition of three teams from the Big East Conference starting next season, the ACC tournament will soon have a very different feel.
For the Duke Blue Devils, they are one of the heavy favorites to win this year's tournament, which would give them their fourth ACC tournament title in the last five years. Over the past decade, it has become almost expected that Duke's players will be cutting down the nets in the Greensboro Coliseum and hoisting the ACC tournament championship trophy.
However, with the talk of conference expansion and realignment, one of the major topics of discussion this week has been possible changes for the location of the ACC tournament, with one possible venue being Madison Square Garden.
With the Big East Conference in a state of transition and no longer holding its tournament in Madison Square Garden, this creates an opportunity for a conference like the ACC to be featured in one of the most historic venues in sports.
Even though ACC purists and people like Mike Krzyzewski aren't thrilled with this idea, moving the ACC Tournament to Madison Square Garden would benefit the Blue Devils.
Not only would it benefit Duke basketball, it would benefit the conference as a whole.
As SI.com's Pete Thamel wrote,
MSG and the ACC would be the perfect marriage of a premier league and the best postseason hoops venue, a union of power, media muscle and geography.
Although the ACC is in a contract to hold the conference tournament in Greensboro through 2015, the smart move would be to do everything it can to move the event to Manhattan for 2016 and beyond.
And no team would have more to gain from moving the event to Madison Square Garden than the Blue Devils.
It has well known that Duke has very strong fan support in the Northeast. The Blue Devils schedule a game in the New York City area on an annual basis and the turnout for the team is always strong.
If the ACC tournament is moved to Madison Square Garden, the only team that will have more support than the Blue Devils would be Syracuse. Duke has played well in the friendly confines of the Greensboro Coliseum, but it is also no stranger to playing on the big stage in New York City.
Having an annual event at Madison Square Garden would also help Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the Duke coaching staff on the recruiting trail. High school players understand the prestige and aura of playing a game at "The Garden" and the possibility of being featured on ESPN during a four-day event is certainly something Coach K could sell to a player who is considering the Blue Devils.
Finally, and most importantly, moving the conference tournament to Madison Square Garden helps Duke because it helps create stability in the ACC. ACC Commissioner John Swofford needs to continue to make aggressive moves to put the conference in a position of power and keeps its members from looking elsewhere if other conferences come calling.
With rumors circulating that the Big Ten Conference will pursue North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech, and the SEC will go after Virginia Tech or N.C. State, the ACC must do everything it can to prevent from being poached.
Due to the fact that it does not have a highly sought-after football program, Duke could find itself on the outside looking in if other ACC teams decide to join other conferences. The best situation for the Blue Devils is for the ACC to continue to grow and flourish and for Duke to remain one of the key members. Holding the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament in Madison Square Garden helps the conference continue to do that.
For those of us who grew up with the traditional ACC, these are strange times. The memories of the ACC of the past are wonderful, but the conference has to look toward the future. And for Duke's sake, part of that future should include the ACC tournament in Madison Square Garden.
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