The ACC men's basketball tournament begins today at the Greensboro Coliseum, and league officials have "scrambled to fill more seats," offering "more tickets to schools closer to Greensboro, and allotting more to corporate sponsors," according to Pickerall & Shaffer in a front-page piece for the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. ACC Associate Commissioner for Men's Basketball Operations Karl Hicks said that as of yesterday afternoon, "no more than 250 ticket books were available." Hicks: "We're excited because we expect to have a full building." But that the conference "has had to tweak its policies shows that the tournament just isn't the same in-person draw that it once was." In '09, "only about half of the people who bought roughly 26,000 tickets per session passed through the turnstiles at the Georgia Dome on Thursday," and "roughly 6,000 seats were empty, on average, for the four Friday quarterfinal games." Last March, 2,000 "all-session books went unsold at the Greensboro Coliseum," and turnstile counts were "down as much as 4,000 people during last year's Friday night session." Former Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said, "I never dreamt of a time when more tickets would be available than people to grab them." Pickerall & Shaffer note the conference's "expansion to 12 teams has brought in new fans who are less tied to ACC history ... and less likely to travel." The country also is "still recovering from the worst economy since the Great Depression in the 1930s, making it harder to afford the $396 all-session book -- plus lodging, meals and missed work." In addition, "only one team besides Duke and North Carolina has won the tournament title since 1997, lessening its competitive drama." ESPN college basketball analyst Len Elmore: "People may not feel there is an opportunity for their team to kind of win out, if you will. And in this economy, it's pretty expensive to go to these games, and you have to certainly be invested in this tournament" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/10
).WHY LEAVE HOME?
In Raleigh, Caulton Tudor wrote with "all of the important games televised live, not only is it cheaper to stay home and watch," but there are "also more amenities." Tudor: "Free parking and/or no traffic jams. Beverages of your choice on demand, if you so choose." He added, "When was the last time you saw even a mildly controversial play rewind on the arena video boards? ... If a play involves any sort of difficult officiating decision, odds are you will not get [to] see a replay if you're in attendance." Tudor notes the ACC "recently completed a $2 billion television deal" with ESPN, and "with that kind of money, who needs in-house audience?" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/10