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It's Tourney Time

Even with all the problems NC State has faced of late, I can't help but get excited about the ACC tournament. To an extent, the tournament offers a fresh start. It doesn't mean things will be different for us. But they can be.

NC State should have Cameron Bennerman available, and although Evtimov and Grant are hurting, they'll play. With three straight games of substandard shooting behind us, I think we'll shoot well on Friday. At any rate, I'm not going to bother with thinking about the alternatives. What fun is that?

If your friends and family are anything like mine, the week of the ACC tournament is a highlight for another reason: the ACC tournament party. If there's a better excuse to mingle with fans of other ACC teams and drink food-colored (to match one's school's colors, naturally) beer, I haven't found it. The tournament party has become an annual requirement, a yearly tradition as vital as any other. It doesn't quite feel like March until this weekend rolls around.

I have been attending ACC tournament parties since long before I understood or cared about what was happening. Weaned at the very teat of the ACC tournament party, you might say. In my earlier days, NC State wasn't typically a threat to win the tournament--the play-in game wasn't called the Les Robinson Invitational for nothin'--but everyone was used to that by then. The great thing about the tournament, though, is every team has a chance. There's no need to quibble with probabilities or likelihoods. One of these days, man, it's gonna be the year.

A staple of the parties was (and continues to be) the betting pool. This isn't just any pool, of course. This is a pool befitting an event of high caliber and esteem. This pool comes with a fancy Excel program, honed by years of nitpicking and controversy (but mostly nitpicking). There are charts and graphs, and a top secret algorithm (only slightly less notorious than the RPI or BCS formulas) that looks at the distribution of bets and assigns a weight to each different outcome.

As the championship game tips off on Sunday, and most of the schools have long since been ousted, it is no time to despair, for solace may still be found in a finish in the money. And if not, well, there's always next year.