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ACC might have its eyes on Madison Square Garden conference tournament someday

College basketball fans stand outside Barclays Center, where

College basketball fans stand outside Barclays Center, where the men's Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college basketball tournament is taking place, Thursday, March 9, 2017, in New York. Credit: AP / Mary Altaffer

The first Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in New York was by all measures a success. There were great games and record crowds at Barc lays Center and the players and fans all had good things to say. Still one couldn’t help but get the feeling as it progressed that those in the conference have something even bigger in mind.

In a raw soliloquy Wednesday, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said the conference should stop having its tournament in places such as Greensboro, North Carolina, and stick to “media centers and recruiting centers” such as New York, Washington and Atlanta.

And Friday, Mike Brey offered this: “We’ll be in the Garden someday . . . The World’s Most Famous Arena should have the best basketball league there.”

The ACC already poached seven schools — Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame — from the Big East. More and more it sounds like the ACC might want to take over its house, too.

The ACC isn’t the only one sizing up the property. The Big Ten agreed to hold its 2018 tournament a week early so it can play at the Garden before the Big East comes in as usual.

The Big East has an agreement with the Garden that runs through 2026. The deal includes an opt-out in a few years if the Big East fails to reach certain attendance figures but so far, there seems to be no danger of that happening.

The ACC is already booked for Barclays Center again next year and Greensboro the following two years. But it would seem the Garden has been on its mind, at least since Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse came on board in 2013.

“The first league meeting I was in, they had [then-Pitt coach] Jamie Dixon, myself and Jim Boeheim talk about playing our league tournament in New York and what it meant,” Brey told Newsday. “Later that night, I had a bunch of associate ADs from the southern schools come up and go ‘that sounds really cool.’ I didn’t know what kind of feedback I would get.

“And I think it will be interesting to see the feedback from the Brooklyn experience at the spring meetings in May, but this league has to rotate through the Garden.”

A number of ACC teams have played games in early-season tournaments at the Garden and have a feel for what it’s like to play in the building. Not all ACC administrators do, though, and they’ve inquired about what it’s like.

“There’s a great electricity in that building and the great history [of] the building,” Brey said. “We made it to the [Big East] semifinals a few times, but never got to Saturday night . . . The feeling in the semifinals at the Garden is like nothing else.”


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