I’m an ACC lifer, and with Maryland heading to the B1G, I wanted to see some of the conference’s more famous gyms before the ride ends. In the span of one week, I got to take in three basketball games along Tobacco Road.
On January 19 I saw Maryland lose to North Carolina in the Dean Dome. Then last Saturday I watched the Terps lose again, this time to Duke in Cameron. The nightcap was Carolina against NC State at the PNC Arena.
On none of these trips was I working, just a basketball fan with a Maryland lean. Below are my thoughts.
Once inside the arena, the Dean Dome is the most impressive aesthetic venue of the three. Everything is Carolina blue, and rather than it being nauseating, it’s slightly magical. The walls, the chairs, the court, most of the fans. I know I sound like Jim Nantz talking about Augusta, but the inside of the Dean Dome is really damn cool.
The hanging banners offer names like Jordan and Worthy, and the video screens show sick highlights of the army of NBA players Chapel Hill has produced. For me the coolest part was Dean Smith reminding the pleasant crowd that he will “always be a Tar Heel.”
Might be worth confessing: Of the three schools, I like Carolina, hate Duke and now loathe NC State. I went into the Dean Dome wanting to like it, and I did. Also, they serve Chick-fil-A in the stadium. Nobody can hate that.
There were some losers with critter pants and bowties, but they were few and far between. The Chapel Hill crowd is pretty bougie, but makes for a nice afternoon as a visiting fan.
Unlike the Dean Dome, I went into Cameron wanting to mock a nerd with a cheer sheet. Walking up to arena, you can’t help but notice the tents of students camping out for the game. It’s a gimmick — all of the tickets are now computerized, thus, no need to camp — and most of the tents reminded me of Tom Haverford’s definition of camping.
Despite my Duke prejudices, watching a game in Cameron lives up to the hype. The students are nuts the entire game, they have a lot of goofy chants and cheers that ESPN and Dukie V haven’t featured and in turn ruined.
And it’s tiny. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. The whole crowd is practically on top of the court. Some impressive banners hang from the rafters — I always liked Grant Hill — and the volume doesn’t decrease from tipoff to the final buzzer.
Put simply, Cameron offers its Dukies an incredible home-court advantage. And that’s enough with the compliments.
I got booed outside the stadium taking a picture with some friends. Granted I was wearing a Maryland shirt standing in front of the Cameron sign, but for all of Coach K’s talk about “leading men” most of the Duke crowd seem to be a bunch of loudmouths not from North Carolina in dark blue V-neck sweaters.
The crowd chanted “USA” at Alex Len as he shot free throws. That’s some xenophobic commentary from a very smart group of kids. They did the same thing to Greivis Vasquez a few years back. Everyone likes to get mad at the Maryland students for saying “sucks” a lot and the occasional curse word, but at least the Terp crowd isn’t known for mocking the central premise of America as a land of opportunity. (Ed. note: Hold on, let’s blow it up:
“At least the Terp crowd isn’t known for mocking the central premise of America as a land of opportunity.”
Ah, that felt good. Carrying on … )
I’m thrilled I got to see a Maryland-Duke game in Cameron. The future of that game is on the same trajectory as the Dodo bird. It was an incredible experience. And also reinforced some opinions I already had.
I do not love Debbie Yow. She buried Maryland in debt, repeatedly insulted the best coach in Terps history, and split town just when the going got rough. Add the fact that she claimed Gary Williams sabotaged her coaching search for Mark Gottfried, and she is probably one of my least favorite people in sports.
Now NC State has a talented team fresh off a Sweet 16 run, and a lot of fans that want to tell you all about it. Bad recipe for me.
The Wolfpack play in a pro arena, about the same size as Verizon Center. It’s a big modern arena with none of the charm of Cameron or the Dean Dome. And damn if it wasn’t rocking.
These people were going crazy. It was super loud in there, especially during a first half where NCSU dismantled the Tar Heels. For perspective, this was NC State’s Super Bowl: playing Carolina with College Gameday in the building, a chance for the Raleigh faithful to show their program is back.
State has talent for sure, I’d say four NBA players on the roster. But they are so inconsistent, and have a coach that lacks the ability to make adjustments. Carolina made this a game in the second half, and the crowd was scared down the stretch.
PNC Arena is no different than most pro arenas in the country, but the fans were great, the place was packed. Unsurprisingly, I saw no bowties; these folks are not the squash-playing set you see in Chapel Hill, and they love the Pack.
I don’t. I look forward to the Mark Gottfried experiment eventually ending poorly. This dude had to resign midseason from his alma mater. That doesn’t happen without shadiness, and shadiness tends to repeat itself.
When it happens, I look forward to Chairman Yow trying to blame Gary.