North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell sounded like a tour guide as she sold all the best qualities of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She pointed out how many great restaurants are in the area, the great hotels and, of course, the outlets.
“About two miles away is a Nike outlet store, and the Under Armour (outlet) and all that stuff,” Hatchell said. “I’m just thinking about the tournament atmosphere and what people like.”
For the first time since 2000, the ACC women’s basketball tournament will not be played in Greensboro.
The tournament was moved to Conway, S.C., in September, two days after the NCAA pulled its championships out of North Carolina because of House Bill 2, when the ACC announced it would move the 10 neutral-site championships it had scheduled in the state during the 2016-17 academic year.
In addition to basketball, the other ACC championships that were relocated were football, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s golf, men’s golf and baseball.
HB2 struck down local nondiscrimination ordinances and requires transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate while they are in schools and other government facilities. Critics call the law discriminatory. Supporters say it maintains privacy and safety in bathrooms and locker rooms.
The ACC women’s tournament games will be played at the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina, a short drive from Myrtle Beach, which is fine with Hatchell. The veteran UNC coach loved the tournament in Greensboro, where it had become a fixture in March, but if it had to move, the beach is a nice consolation, she said.
“Myrtle Beach is my second home,” Hatchell said. “When I’m not here I’m usually down there. Great hotels, great restaurants. If we’re not going to be in Greensboro, that’s the next best place to be, especially if it’s going to be as warm as it’s been here lately.”
The Tar Heels (14-15, 3-13) will enter the tournament, which starts on Wednesday, as the No. 14 seed, their lowest seeding in the 39-year history of the postseason event. North Carolina will play No. 11 seed Pittsburgh at 6:30 p.m. The Panthers defeated the Tar Heels 68-48 on January 15.
Hatchell will roll into town with the youngest team in the league. In the last two games of the regular season, Hatchell started three freshmen. In Sunday’s regular season finale, a 95-71 loss to No. 13 Duke, Hatchell only played seven players, five of them were freshmen.
One of those freshmen, Olivia Smith, scored a career-high 15 points. A native of Raleigh, Smith grew up in the heart of ACC country. At Cardinal Gibbons, Smith remembers the teachers would let them sometimes watch the tournament in class.
“It is North Carolina and my school is right across from PNC Arena (where N.C. State plays home games),” Smith said. “That whole basketball atmosphere was big at my school.”
No. 3 seed Duke (25-4, 13-3) and No. 4 seed N.C. State (22-7, 12-4) both open tournament play on Friday.
Herald-Sun sports writer Jonas Pope is @JEPopeIV on Twitter
ACC women’s tournament
Where: CONWAY, S.C.
When: March 1-5
Wednesday, March 1
Game No. 1 – Seed No. 12 Virginia Tech vs. Seed No. 13 Clemson, 1 p.m. (RSN)
Game No. 2 – Seed No. 10 Georgia Tech vs. Seed No. 15 Boston College, 3:30 p.m. (RSN)
Game No. 3 – Seed No. 11 Pitt vs. Seed No. 14 North Carolina, 6:30 p.m. (RSN)
Thursday, March 2
Game No. 4 – Seed No. 5 Louisville vs. Winner of Game No. 1, 11 a.m. (RSN)
Game No. 5 – Seed No. 8 Virginia vs. Seed No. 9 Wake Forest, 2 p.m. (RSN)
Game No. 6 – Seed No. 7 Miami vs. Winner of Game No. 2, 6 p.m. (RSN)
Game No. 7 – Seed No. 6 Syracuse vs. Winner of Game No. 3, 8 p.m. (RSN)
Friday, March 3
Game No. 8 – Seed No. 4 NC State vs. Winner of Game No. 4, 11 a.m. (RSN)
Game No. 9 – Seed No. 1 Notre Dame vs. Winner of Game 5, 2 p.m. (RSN)
Game No. 10 – Seed No. 2 Florida State vs. Winner of Game No. 6, 6 p.m. (RSN)
Game No. 11 – Seed No. 3 Duke vs. Winner of Game No. 7, 8 p.m. (RSN)
Saturday, March 4
Game No. 12 - ACC Semifinal No. 1, Noon (ESPN2)
Game No. 13 - ACC Semifinal No. 2, 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Sunday, March 5
Game No. 14 - Championship Game, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)