Tom Kilgallen has made it a point to go to Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament every March.
The retired produce worker from the Bronx changed his routine on Wednesday. He made the trip up to Brooklyn for the ACC tournament.
“I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see the ACC tournament,” Kilgallen, 63, said in a textbook perfect city accent with optional pronunciation of the “r” in tournament.
Duke, 79-72 winners over Clemson in the second game on Wednesday, was the main attraction for Kilgallen.
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“I’m a Coach K guy,” Kilgallen said. But he was excited to see some of the old teams from the Big East and the regular powers from the ACC.
“Let’s be honest, the Big East was the premier tournament,” Kilgallen said. “But now the ACC is king.”
Other New York locals were slow to pick up on the change in guard in Tuesday’s opening round games. A black curtain was lowered from the upper deck at the Barclays Center and seating was general admission for the three games featuring the ACC’s bottom six teams.
Less than 5,000 fans were there for N.C. State’s loss to Clemson at noon on Tuesday, even with buses of school kids brought in to help fill the seats.
Attendance did pick up on Wednesday to closer to about 12,000, with Syracuse, the traditional Big East power from upstate New York, losing to Miami in the first game and Duke, with its deep roots in the New York/New Jersey area, playing in the second game.
Gregory Floyd was the exact demographic the ACC had in mind when it decided to bring its postseason tournament, the oldest of the Power 5 leagues, as far north as it has ever been.
Floyd, a 54-year-old Syracuse fan from Long Island, rode the No. 3 train in with his friends Kevin Norman and Derek Jackson. Like most Orange faithful, Floyd would prefer to be at Madison Square Garden this week, with Syracuse’s roots and traditional rivals.
“I wish the old Big East never broke up,” Floyd said. “It is what it is, we are in the ACC now. We’re going to try to enjoy it.”
Syracuse didn’t last long enough for Floyd, and most of the other Orange fans who helped bump up the Day 2 attendance, to get a real comparison between the tournament old days at the Garden and the new ones at Barclays Center.
And while Syracuse and Duke were the main attraction for local fans on Wednesday, there were fans there from North Carolina.
Ashlee Kirk, 32, and Liz Harder, 36, made the trip from Raleigh. Kirk, an N.C. State fan, is a regular at the ACC tournament. She liked the idea of being in New York and being able to do other things in the city. After the Duke game, the two women were going to try to get into a taping of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in Manhattan.
“This is fun,” Harder, an instructional resource teacher at Washington Elementary School in downtown Raleigh, said. “I’m OK with it being here every three or four years but I don’t think it should be here every year.”
Kirk has been to the ACC tournament in Tampa, Atlanta, Charlotte and Greensboro. While Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim slammed the idea of the tournament going back its traditional hub, there is no doubt to Kirk where the tournament works best.
“Of course, Greensboro,” Kirk said. “That’s tournament town. They always roll out the red carpet for you and make you feel welcome.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio