The Washington Times - April 24, 2009, 03:09PM

Later this afternoon down in Chapel Hill, N.C., the ACC lacrosse tournament will commence.

It’s an event featuring three sure-fire NCAA tournament teams and one other one (Maryland) that probably needs one more victory to feel comfortable about its postseason hopes.

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There is no automatic berth at stake, effectively making it an opportunity for the ACC’s four lacrosse schools to improve their RPI and strength of schedule rankings. There’s three quality victories floating around for the weekend, and someone will leave with a better resume.

That’s long been a bane for schools in other leagues, many with coaches none-too-pleased about the inherent advantages granted because of the ACC tournament.

So the question is: Is the ACC tournament a good thing?

“I don’t know of any other league that you’d consider a league with four teams,” ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said. “Why have a tournament without an AQ? What has the ACC ever done to promote lacrosse at other schools? Wake Forest would be the most ideal spot for college lacrosse. It has high academic standards. What’s the ACC doing to promote lacrosse in the conference?”

Well, it does have the tournament weekend, which is a nice way to warm up for a potential appearance in the final four on Memorial Day weekend.

But mostly, it’s an event for the players, who get to play some ultra-familiar opponents in a go-or-go-home setting.

“I would say on balance it’s a good thing,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “I like the fact our conference produces some national champions, and all the schools are nationally ranked. The conference notices, and part of that is the ACC tournament. The conference makes an investment, and this is one part of that. I wouldn’t want to give that away.”

Much of that is the matter of playing a title game on TV, having a banquet and getting an extra game or two. Of course, it’s a tough weekend for coaches, who are already familiar with each of the teams. Virginia, for example, has played the other three teams within the last month.

Kessenich proposes an ACC-Ivy League challenge, offering up a weekend of Princeton-Virginia and Cornell-Maryland in Baltimore as a possibility.

That would be interesting, but here’s another idea: Why not have the ACC’s teams play home-and-home during the regular season?

Of course, that doesn’t solve Kessenich’s complaints about redundancy. But as valid as they are, don’t look for the event to change much any time soon.

– Patrick Stevens