by Jeff Laughlin

Notre Dame had already spoiled the party. Duke and UNC would not cap the recent run of Greensboro ACC Tournaments; their classic rivalry would have to wait to renew tired vitriol and hyped nonsense.

Mike Brey, Notre Dame’s head coach, sat on a stage on March 13 with two of the players he designated most important after beating one of the best teams in the country. He looked like a red-faced mess — like he had just finished off a few at the bar rather than eliminated Duke in a semifinal game. Brey sat facing forward, his body at full rest against the back of his chair, awaiting the final stream of reporters to enter a small auditorium off the Greensboro Coliseum floor.

If Brey had considered the structure of his team’s play over the last two nights, he might have noted his alarm in how good his first halves had went, holding on to leads like crumbling statues tenuously maintain their extremities before falling completely apart.

Instead, Brey disregarded those nights and looked forward to the next one, balancing his knowledge of his schemes and the doubt any coach has of the task ahead.

Balance between certainty and doubt created the mystery behind this entire men’s ACC Tournament. The ACC, for the first time in years, held a middle-heavy set of contestants. While at the top sat an unbelievable set of schools — UVA, Duke, Notre Dame and Louisville — the middlemen that could make serious runs in the postseason numbered nearly as many with UNC, NC State and Miami, all with enough talent to make it tough on the top tier. That did not count Syracuse, who recused themselves from all postseason tournaments amid a series of well-reported NCAA allegations.

The real advantage to being a top team in the tournament was an added two days of rest. The bottom third battled on Wednesday afternoon for the right to play against that middle tier on a Thursday.

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Do we really believe that anything watches over us? Sports faith, as a rule, is belief in this all-encompassing entity, yes. But in the proper context, we believe because not believing is vile.

The ultimate God is one that shows Her face when you need it the most. Being a Duke and UNC fan must be like actually seeing Her every now and again.

People ask why NC State fans rush the court when they beat Duke. Well, it’s kind of like seeing a glimpse of a naked God. You saw something so undeniably difficult to understand and yet so beautiful that you had to act demonstrably and reprehensibly just to try and make the sighting realistic.

You had to deface a beautiful scene so that you could remember that you were human.

Unfortunately, those glimpses prove difficult to recreate. Try and repaint the Sistine Chapel. Win the Kentucky Derby twice. Re-create that sunset you saw on acid, but without the drugs. Impossible.

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