by Eric Ginsburg
1. The free tickets
It should be a misdemeanor to live in the Triad and never attend an ACC tournament game, but like many residents I’ve longed to go without feeling I could justify the cost. My fortune changed while schmoozing at a SynerG on Tap event last week when the event organizer revealed a trove of free passes for the following day. With two nosebleed passes in hand and an old friend at my side, I embarked on a memorable rite of passage.
2. The winning dunk
During the latter half of the Maryland/Florida State game, I outlined my hopes for the match-up’s finale: well-executed, hold-your-breath-its-so-close basketball. Despite trading victories earlier this year, the Maryland Terrapins lagged behind and looked sloppy. An impressive Maryland effort tied the game, and the Seminoles looked like they might be unable to close the deal as the clock ran out. Yet a double-teamed guard was able to fire it to a double-teamed forward down low, who somehow fumbled the basketball to the open center, who ended the game with less than half a second left in an authoritative slam dunk. Unforgettable.
3. The dizziness
When I say we were in the nosebleeds, I mean we were in practically the very worst seats at the Greensboro Coliseum: Row X of the balcony, directly behind one of the hoops. My companion admitted a fear of heights as we emerged on the upper level and actually sat down in empty seats, a dozen rows closer to the floor, practically unable to proceed.
4. The stealth move
We stayed put in the seats until halftime during the Wake Forest/Pitt blowout, when we wandered to the first floor and contemplated whether we could sneak past an usher into more expensive and sparsely populated seats. Deciding against it and consoling ourselves on overpriced chicken fingers and fries, we returned to the upper echelon. Mustering a thimble of courage, we did take over two seats at the front of the balcony that also faced the court better, significantly enhancing our experience.
5. The surprise sighting
As I sat on the end of our newly claimed row, a solitary man excused himself to slip by us. Even without the beard he started rocking in recent months, the recently departed Greensboro City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan was easily recognizable. Our conversation, though mostly about the talent or lack thereof displayed on the floor in front of us, was off the record, but I will say that it felt a little like “The Twilight Zone.”
6. The foreshadowing
Wake Forest certainly wasn’t favored in its square off against the Pitt Panthers, but a recent instant-classic triumph over Duke and the school’s mere presence in the tournament was enough to excite. I’m a longtime UNC loyal, but how could I not pull for the local underdog? From the jump, Wake seemed out of its element, drowning in a sea of fine-tuned play from Pitt on both ends of the court. Less than a minute into the game, it already didn’t bode well for the old black and gold.
7. The ending
My unexpected foray into the premier tournament of North Carolina college basketball ended indifferently. We opted to dip out before a mass exodus at the end of the game, and it was almost embarrassing to watch Wake Forest fall apart. But I felt more than a twinge of sadness as we left and was almost compelled to haggle with scalpers so I could return for UNC’s game the next day or the championships over the weekend. Adding to my rapidly impending nostalgia, Sports Illustrated reported later that night that the ACC is finalizing plans to relocate the tournament to Brooklyn. By then all I could do was stare longingly at my Instagram post of the game and brag at the bar about Florida State’s epic win like I somehow had a hand in it.