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ACC Tournament Hoopla in High Gear

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CHARLOTTE — There are the lucky ones. The ones with the cash, the connections, the cushy job they can leave for a day.

The Charlotte Coliseum is their Mecca, and the ACC Tournament is their Holy Grail.

March Madness is officially in full swing, and even casual ACC fans are catching the fever.

Saturday began with three Triangle teams fighting to make the ACC Championship. With the final buzzer sounding for the day, fans looked forward to to watching another battle of the blues - Duke and Carolina.

WRAL's Debra Morgan is in Charlotte, which is hosting its first ACC Tournament since 1994.

Listen to Debra's exclusive audio report filed after Sunday's game for WRAL OnLine.

Here's Debra's ACC Tournament notebook: ++++++++++++++++++++++++

A lot of people from the Triangle made the trek to Charlotte. For those without tickets, one thing is certain at the ACC Tournament: as the number of teams decreases, the price of the tickets increases.

Saturday, the action at the tournament was quick and competitive, not only on the court, but outside the Charlotte Coliseum. The search for tickets can be a game of itself. A semi-final ticket costs $55 face value, but the top scalping prices were around an inflated $250.

Some people said that the high prices are just part of price one has to pay to enjoy the tournament.

"If you pay, you pay more than you should, but it's worth it," says Carolina fan Lynn Bickley. "It's the whole experience of it. What's $100 buck for a Carolina game, not much. When we were in college you had to camp out for tickets as a student, so this is a lot easier."

So far, there have not been any reports of arrest for ticket scalping.

With flags flying high and proud, fans poured into the Charlotte Coliseum Thursday and Friday.

"We're here at the Duke Invitational this year," said Carolina fan Bryan Hough, relaxing on a couch with three friends in the coliseum parking lot. "We're just here having fun."

"We're scared to death if you really want to know the truth," said Wolfpack fan Mary Meares Scott, whose team faces heavily favored Duke on Saturday.

Rabid ACC fans plan for months to be here, wherever here is. Families and friends join together, even though they may be on opposing sides.

"We cheer for each other's teams until we get down to competing against each other," said N.C. State fan Mary Edna Williams.

Then what happens?

"We don't talk," she said.

Some fans skipped breakfast Friday and went directly to celebrating.

State fans have had quite a year, from the historic last game at Reynolds Coliseum to heart-breaking losses to Friday's exciting comeback.

"I hope we can pull it out against Duke tomorrow," said NCSU fan Brian Wells. "It's not looking good."

This is the first year Charlotte has hosted the tournament after a several year stint in Greensboro. That means Triangle area fans have had to travel farther.

Most fans don't seem to mind.

"I'd rather be in Greensboro. It's a little closer," said Duke fan Britt Musselwhite. "But we'll take it wherever we can get it."

Greensboro has hosted the tournament a total of 18 times since 1966.

Last year, Greensboro set an attendance record with more than 118,000 fans attending the tournament over four days.

"The verdict is still out on Charlotte," said Hough. "Greensboro was wonderful. They are great hosts"

But no matter where the tournament is held, the fans will come. Since 1966, the tournaments have been sell-outs.

After the tournament leaves Charlotte, it will be going to Atlanta and back to Charlotte before returning to Greensboro for two more years. Charlotte has hosted the tournament six times, including this year.

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Debra Morgan, Reporter
David Renner, Photographer
John Conway, Web Editor

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