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News - A wACCky weekend

And March madness hasn't even begun yet

They've got "CAROLINA" stitched on their butts and Air Jordan logos on their backs. Apparently, North Carolina's uniforms blind some referees. But the NCAA Tournament selection committee saw their inconsistency in the final week of the regular season — not to mention Sunday's blow-out loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament's championship game in the Georgia Dome — and dropped the Tar Heels to a No. 2 seed.
"It's just not our day," sighed a UNC booster seated behind me as Duke's margin increased to 26 points.
Not your day? It was a massacre. And what's this we-our-us business? That guy and about 40,000 other people in attendance need to get a little perspective on the amateur game played by 18- to 21-year-olds. Especially those middle-aged Maryland fans wearing turtles on their heads.
The excitement was on Saturday: Georgia Tech-North Carolina, Maryland-Duke, even Bulls-Hawks at Philips Arena after the ACC semifinal games. All of them came down to the final seconds before they were decided. The Duke-Carolina tournament final was a bust. A rout. A whipping. A humiliation. A public flogging.
"Why should we be concerned?" asked Carolina's Brendan Haywood afterward in the locker room. Well, let's see. Duke just beat you 79-53 without two of its stars — Carlos Boozer and Jason Williams — a mere 12 hours after you squeaked by Georgia Tech.
"Duke beats a lot of people," sniffed Carolina coach Matt Doherty, continuing a stream of snippy replies. Asked if he was concerned about his team's erratic play in the last two weeks, he glared, "What's your question? We won the league. We played the championship game."
Not quite. They shared the regular-season crown with Duke and they weren't in the title game after the first eight minutes.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, in contrast, was positively giddy in victory, especially after being assured that Williams, who left the final with an ankle injury, was OK.
Duke team trainer, to assembled media: "Jason Williams has a mild ankle sprain."
Local TV bobo: "Based on your years of medical experience, what is your diagnosis of the injury to Jason Williams?"
Duke team trainer: "A mild ankle sprain."
"Don't ask Shane any more questions," Krzyzewski joked after his preternaturally talented forward Shane Battier, the Bill Bradley of his generation, announced that he was surprised to be voted the tournament's MVP because, "I don't usually play well in the ACC Tournament."
"He doesn't know what the hell he is talking about," said Coach K, incredulous. "He's delirious."
Not delirious after losing in the semifinals were Maryland coach Gary Williams and Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt. Each man saw his team come within an eyelash of playing for the conference championship after roller-coaster seasons.
"It's hard to appreciate a loss," Williams said Saturday, before doing just that. "Our league is the toughest league in this country. I told our players I don't think there's anybody out there that's better than we are on any given night. That's gonna be important in the coming weeks."
(Note: Should No. 11 Georgia State get past No. 6 Wisconsin in the first round in the West, Panthers coach Lefty Driesell could face Maryland, his former team.)
Hewitt had calmed down considerably by the time Tech's locker room was opened. "That's why they have cooling-off periods," he said. But the fight in his players during the tournament switched on a light bulb over his head. "I had a tendency this season to call too many set plays," he said. "No more set plays. Just push it. That's something we live for, [to] get into those last four minutes and make conditioning a factor." Tech will be the No. 8 seed in the West.
Georgia, by the way, was rewarded with a No. 8 seed in the East despite its 16-14 record, for playing the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation.
Final thoughts before March Madness descends:
Krzyzewski — "This [Duke] team does not need to be rescued. This team just needs to play. Calling a timeout is not what a championship team needs. A championship team needs to know that the people on the bench have confidence in them."
And Hewitt — "February basketball can get ugly sometimes.
"But March can be worse."
Hot shots: What's hot in Atlanta sports
Thumbs up -- To Hawks Matt Maloney, Cal Bowdler and Chris Crawford, who turned their $10,000-prize-winning raffle ticket over to a 14-year old Marietta boy recovering from a brain tumor, at a fundraiser last week.
Moldy Leaf -- I have the utmost respect for Tampa Bay Bucs coach Tony Dungy. But what is he thinking, acquiring problem child Ryan Leaf off waivers from the Chargers?
Never mind -- Gary Sheffield says he's prayed about his contract situation and is no longer demanding to be traded from the Dodgers. Memo to Gary: Shut up.
$12 -- The latest price of parking in the Centennial parking garage across the street from Philips Arena, charged for so-called special events. That would be Hawks and Thrashers games, in case you were wondering.
$20 -- Price for the same parking spaces during the ACC Tournament.
Fantasy league -- Who would you rather have on your team: Troy Aikman or Doug Flutie?





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