ACC double-teams AP national honors

Battier named top player

Doherty is Coach of Year despite UNC's collapse


Ncaa Tournament

The Final Four

March 31, 2001|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

MINNEAPOLIS - The Atlantic Coast Conference swept yesterday's Associated Press National Coach and Player of the Year awards, as North Carolina's Matt Doherty and Duke's Shane Battier were given the respective honors.

It marked the first time since 1979 that a conference won both awards. That year they were won by coach Bill Hodges and senior forward Larry Bird of Indiana State.

"It's a proud moment to be recognized this way," said Doherty, who became the first ACC coach to win a share of the title in his first season. "I wouldn't be standing up here without my players. We had a lot of fun. No disrespect for this trophy, but I would trade it in a second to be here coaching."

Many thought the Tar Heels (26-7) would get to the Final Four, but their late-season fade, which included losses at Clemson, at Virginia and twice to Duke, ended with a second-round defeat to Penn State in the NCAA tournament.

There have been rumors that North Carolina had dissension among its players, particularly between All-America guard Joseph Forte and forward Jason Capel, that caused the team's late-season collapse. Doherty didn't deny them, but wouldn't elaborate.

"On every team, there's going to be a couple of players who don't get along," Doherty said. "If there were, I'd like to think it didn't affect us. When I played [at North Carolina with Michael Jordan and James Worthy on the 1982 championship team], we didn't love each other all the time."

Doherty was followed in the voting by Larry Eustachy of Iowa State, Al Skinner of Boston College and Bill Self of Illinois.

Battier, a senior forward, has averaged 19.9 points and 7.2 rebounds, leading the Blue Devils to the NCAA Final Four. He was followed by guards Jamaal Tinsley of Iowa State, Jason Williams of Duke and Forte.

Spartans go to `war'

Last year, it was shoulder pads and helmets in practice. This season, it's a basic game called "war."

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo will try just about anything to motivate his Spartans when it comes to rebounding.

It shows.

The defending national champions come to Minneapolis with one of the most-talked-about statistics: a plus-18.5 rebounding margin against its four tournament opponents. The Spartans' semifinal opponent tonight - Arizona - is next of the remaining three teams at a plus-10.7 margin.

Last year, when Izzo didn't like his Spartans' rebounding effort against Ohio State, he brought shoulder pads and helmets to pratice to help bring back the edge.

"It was probably the greatest thing I ever did," Izzo said. "It ended up me wanting to get after it a little bit and probably ended up the most fun drill I ever did. The guys had a riot. It's something they'll always have in their memory bank."

Izzo calls rebounding "an effort-related stat," and that's what the game of war is all about.

"I think aggressiveness with the basketball is the key to rebounding," he said. "We line up five guys on one side, five on the other, throw a ball at the backboard and see who's going to come back with it."

Mardesich uses time well

Mike Mardesich plays 10.2 minutes a game this season, a career low. He has made a career-high 46.3 percent of his field-goal attempts, and the 7-foot backup center said that's a matter of thinking less and playing with more abandon.

Mardesich played more than Terence Morris when they were freshmen in 1997-98, but his minutes began to drop a year later, when he lost his confidence. What could have been dunks became lay-ins, and what should have been lay-ins became fade-away jumpers, as his field-goal percentage plummeted to .350. It was a slightly better .426 last season, and this year the fifth-year senior is making the most of more limited minutes.

"I really don't know why I'm shooting better," Mardesich said. "I'm just going out there and playing. I used to look at it [his field-goal percentage] and concentrate on it. The more you think about it, the more problems it causes. You can turn a normal shot into the biggest one in your life, and that's not good."

Mardesich is expected to graduate in May with a double degree and four majors: international business, finance, logistics and marketing. He bypassed an education at Harvard and took his chances with Maryland. The 23-year-old will stretch his school record for games played to 137 games tonight, and is thrilled to be ending his career at the Final Four.

"It goes down to whether you want to play basketball at the highest level or go to school at the highest level," Mardesich said. "I got the best of both worlds. I knew I was going to be a business major, and the business school at Maryland is one of the toughest in the country. I always dreamed of playing in the ACC."

A learning experience

Terps coach Gary Williams is aware of the impressive company he's among this weekend.

Izzo, Arizona's Lute Olson and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski are all Final Four regulars who have led their respective teams to national championships.

"I saw that last night at the Salute Dinner. All those guys knew which steps to get on the stage, all that stuff," he said. "It's great to be here with three people like that."

Williams is aiming to become the 15th coach to win a title in his first trip to the Final Four, and the third in the past four years. It was commonplace in the early years, and recently it has been done by UCLA's Jim Harrick in 1995, Kentucky's Tubby Smith in 1998 and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun in 1999.

Sun staff writers Don Markus, Paul McMullen and Glenn P. Graham contributed to this article.

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