Notebook: ACC Tournament Draws Critics

TAMPA, Fla. – If an ACC Tournament basketball game is played in Tampa, Florida, and no one is there to watch it, does it make a noise? Better yet, does the ACC admit it was a big mistake to have it there in the first place?

For the first time ever, the ACC Tournament is being held south of Atlanta, and there are rumblings that this could be the lowest attended conference tournament in league history.

People thought the 2005 tournament in Washington, D.C. was bad? This has the makings for complete disaster, especially if some odd teams upset some of the proverbial big boys.

"Thursday is usually the biggest challenge because we don't have the top four seeds here," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. "It would be (a concern to have a lot of empty seats shown on television). That Thursday, with being a 12-member conference, is a challenge for our tournament."

So, why Tampa, of all places?

"The decision to come here was made before expansion," Swofford said. "There were two reasons to come here: the fairness of moving the tournament around some to be fair to the fans and schools throughout the league and the wisdom of branding the conference in a state that is becoming more and more important to the ACC."

However, not everyone is opposed to having the tournament outside of Greensboro or Charlotte or Atlanta.

"Things change," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said, who believes there is no such thing as a homecourt advantage. "Change doesn't necessarily always have to be negative. I think basketball in the future will continue to grow in the state of Florida."

Even though Swofford said he likes having the tournament in Tampa, the ACC has named the sites of the future tournaments through 2015, and the state of is nowhere on the list.

All aboard
While the Clemson players were eating breakfast early Wednesday morning, the team's bus driver realized the bus scheduled to haul them to practice at the St. Pete Times Forum had a flat tire and couldn't be used.

So, instead of boarding the bus, Tigers coach Oliver Purnell had his team stretch and go through warm-ups at the hotel, so when they would get to the arena they would be ready to practice.

The team had to wait some 25-30 minutes for another bus (believed to be Maryland's) to arrive at the Marriott Westshore by the Tampa airport and take them to practice.

All the while, the timer for Clemson's practice was winding down on the big, overhead scoreboard.

Each team gets 55 minutes to practice, but the Tigers didn't step foot onto the court until 33:55 of practice time remained.

"It started off a little rough this morning with the flat tire," Clemson guard Vernon Hamilton said. "But we were able to get it going for the 30 minutes that we had."

Purnell didn't seem too worried about it all.

"What are you going to do?" he asked. "Don't stress about things you can't control."

Somebody quickly pointed out that this marked the third time this season there has been some sort of clock controversy involving Clemson.

For those that are worried the Tigers didn't get enough practice time, they held a regular, hard practice about an hour after their allotted time on the court was over. Also, the 30-plus minutes is still more time than either Duke or North Carolina spent on the court as both teams opted to practice at home before heading to Tampa.

Pick and pop
Last year at this time, James Mays was sitting in the stands of the Greensboro Coliseum and had a helpless feeling watching his former teammates lose to Miami in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Now, he can help the Tigers get to the NCAA Tournament. …

Tigers forward Trevor Booker said he has more butterflies this week than he's had throughout his entire freshman season. But he also added that he's very anxious and ready to play. …

Clemson is 2-0 since K.C. Rivers was inserted into the starting lineup. Both he and Purnell said that is just a coincidence. … In overtime against Miami and over the last four minutes against Virginia Tech, the Tigers were 8-of-10 from the field. That's quite a change from the closing minutes in previous games. …

This is the ninth straight year the Tigers have been either the eighth or ninth seed in the tournament.

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