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Guest Column: Why I Love ACC Basketball

Occasionally here at Blue vs. Blue we’ll feature guest posts from all varieties of friends, fans and basically anyone who wants to write for us. Today we feature the work of Duke fan Caleb Whitaker, who I’m pretty sure has gone through more obstacles to watch ACC basketball this season than most of us will in our lifetimes.

With conference tournament week kicking off, I really just wanted to say a few words about why ACC basketball is the best.  You see, I’ve been living in the upper reaches of the Peruvian Amazon for the last six months. The only place in Iquitos, Peru with the satellite technology to view US college basketball was the military base, and they didn’t welcome visitors, or even accept bribes (I tried). So throughout December and January, I made the trek to the internet café with the fastest speed in town, and followed the big games live on ESPN’s gametracker. That is, until the Georgetown game.  That one was tough to watch, even when rendered as a Cartesian graph.

By February, I had a decision to make. Stay until spring, or go back early? February is the beating heart of the ACC basketball season.  It’s where it all shakes out, where old scores are settled and new grudges are formed.  So I returned from South America a bit earlier than planned, and Dios mio, was it ever worth it. After the Georgetown debacle, Duke went undefeated in February. I got to see Scheyer, Singler and Smith actually play the game in real time, instead of just reading about it. ‘Zoubekian havoc-wreaking’ has to be seen to be understood—it’s just not the same when reduced to a Google search.

Anyway, Coach K has really got the boys in royal blue playing at tournament level, despite the recent loss to Maryland. Duke-Md. II felt like an NCAA- caliber game, and it was just awesome to watch. Maybe Duke will see them again in the ACC Tourney, or even the Big Dance. Here’s hoping the plot will thicken, as the Duke-Maryland rivalry has emerged in the last decade or so as the most intriguing subplot this side of Duke-UNC. Having said that, Duke-UNC really is the best rivalry in all of sports, in this fan’s opinion. Too bad Carolina’s season opened up like a suppurating flesh wound … it’s been quite the anomaly, given Carolina’s talent and pedigree, and unlike a lot of Blue Devil partisans, it’s hard for me to indulge the schadenfreude.

I was a junior at Duke in 1995. I remember what it was like to feel the bottom falling out, and it really sucked. Somewhere in Cameron’s Hall of Gods and Heroes should be a monument to Pete Gaudet, the poor guy. I picture it as a dark, dusty little spot near the bathrooms where they could have, say, the Pete Gaudet Memorial Concession Stand. At this stand they sell nothing but pickled red herrings, barbecued scapegoat, and Pepto Bismol.  Maybe there’s also a tiny engraved stone tablet in the corner, reading simply “4-15,” for stray dogs to pee on. Just a thought. So, Carolina fans, if you don’t like the way your season has turned out, remember that you’ve still got two titles in five years, and things’ll be back to normal soon enough.

But back to the point: when I was in elementary school, my 4th grade teacher wheeled a TV into our classroom for the Friday noon game of the ACC tournament and told us to pay attention. That was the whole lesson plan for the afternoon. And you know what, it was the beginning of an education that continues to this day. That’s the thing about the ACC that makes it so great: people live and breathe basketball here. I’m sure you can say that for plenty of other places around the country, too, but it’s definitely true in North Carolina. Even in a mediocre year for the league, productivity at workplaces everywhere is going to take a steep drop downwards when the conference tourney is on Thursday and Friday. March Madness is here for the ACC, and it’s time to get swept up in it.