Thin Duke out to win, but keeps perspective

Krzyzewski: `Not going to kill our team' in ACC

ACC notebook

March 08, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Top-seeded Duke may win this weekend's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, but will the Blue Devils survive it?

With Mike Dunleavy, its only productive reserve, likely out for the tournament, Duke basically will be down to five starters for a possible stretch of three games in four days.

To compound matters, the thin Blue Devils could face a weary scenario of playing on just three days' rest before the NCAA tournament.

So Duke (24-4), a likely top seed in the NCAA tournament, has hinted at opting for longer-range priorities over league bragging rights.

"We're going to Charlotte to try and win the tournament. We also know we have a tournament afterwards," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

"The NCAA tournament is more important. That doesn't mean we're not going to go after the ACC tournament. We're not going to try to kill our team, either."

Dunleavy, a freshman forward who was averaging 9.5 points in 25.2 minutes, has been out since Feb. 19, when he was diagnosed with mononucleosis. There's a slim possibility he could be in uniform for the tournament and play sparingly.

Duke still has won three of its four games without him, but not without some tired legs.

The starters have averaged 90 percent of the scoring (323 of 360) during that time. Duke forwards Chris Carrawell and Shane Battier have sat only a total of four minutes each over the four-game span, and point guard Jason Williams has received five minutes of rest in that stretch.

Nevertheless, Duke may want to win the ACC tournament just for history's sake. The last 14 teams to win both the ACC regular-season title outright and the tournament championship have advanced to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.

Sneak preview?

For North Carolina's final home game of the season, the Tar Heels had an unexpected guest in the front row, Kansas coach Roy Williams. A former 10-year assistant in Chapel Hill under Dean Smith, Williams has been a popular choice among disgruntled Tar Heels alumni to replace Bill Guthridge.

But Williams was in town last Wednesday for pleasure, not business. His daughter, Kimberly, is a member of the university's dance team.

"I'm here to see my daughter dance, that's all," Williams told reporters.

And Guthridge hasn't expressed any fear over his job security.

"I haven't thought of my coaching mortality," said Guthridge, whose Tar Heels, fourth-seeded in the tournament, finished the regular season at 18-12. "I'm just trying to do the best job we can and get ready for Wake Forest."

Turnaround Tiger

It may sound like a joke, but last-place Clemson could be credited with the biggest improvement in ACC history.

The Tigers' free-shooting Will Solomon leads the ACC in scoring (21.1) and may finish his surprise season in the record books.

After averaging only 6.3 points as a freshman backup last season, the Clemson point guard is on pace to establish the conference's greatest one-year scoring turnaround at 14.8 points.

Duke's Tate Armstrong set the mark with a 14.5-point one-year swing in 1975-76.

Waking up

Wake Forest moved Robert O'Kelley out of the offense and moved up in the standings. While not depending on their preseason, ACC first-team selection, the Demon Deacons (16-13) have won three of their last five regular-season games for the league tournament's fifth seed.

O'Kelley scored only six points a game during Wake's hot streak as his season average has plummeted to 13.4.

The 6-foot-1 junior shifted from the point to shooting guard, but hasn't regained his shooting touch from his first two seasons, when he produced 17.1 points per game.

"He's been a star player for us for two years, but our team has changed," Wake coach Dave Odom said. "No one has ever told him to take fewer shots, but we have talked to him about taking better ones. One of these days he's going to bust out, and why not Friday [against North Carolina]?"

Quick quiz

Name the only coach outside the state of North Carolina to win an ACC tournament title since 1985.

Fast breaks

Maryland's nine-game ACC victory streak was eighth among the nation's longest conference streaks before the Terrapins succumbed to Virginia on the road in overtime Saturday. Of Duke center Carlos Boozer's 82 field goals during league play, 23 have been dunks (27.7 percent). Although the fourth seed in the tournament, North Carolina extended its streak of being in the top three in the ACC regular-season standings to 36 straight seasons after tying Virginia for third with a 9-7 league record. Despite his return, North Carolina State center Ron Kelley still has knee problems. He has had constant swelling and receives extra days off around game days.

Quiz answer

Outgoing Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, whose Yellow Jackets won ACC championships in 1985, 1990 and 1993. His 1996 club was also the last non-North Carolina school to appear in an ACC tournament final.

"My time is done. My run is over," said Cremins, the league's third-winningest coach overall, but whose teams are 28-32 over the past two seasons. "I've been treated so well. I'm embarrassed how well I've been treated.

"I've got to keep going back to look at my records this year and last year because I feel like I'm going out on top.

"If I didn't have so many skeletons in my closet, I would consider running for politics."

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