ACC tournament

March 07, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht

What: 49th annual Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball tournament.

Site: Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, N.C.

When: Tonight through Sunday.

2001 champion: Duke

2002 favorite: Maryland. Although Duke has won the past three tournaments, Maryland has earned the top seed for the first time since 1980. The Terps are the hottest team coming into Charlotte, having won their past 12 games while winning the regular-season championship for the first time since 1980.

Dark horse: Sixth-seeded Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets took their lumps early with so much youth and inexperience. With the exception of senior point guard Tony Akins, they play all freshmen and sophomores. That contributed to an 0-7 start against the Atlantic Coast Conference, but Georgia Tech has turned its season around by winning seven of nine games since, and could give Wake Forest fits in the quarterfinals.

Player to watch: Maryland sophomore forward Chris Wilcox is probably the best pure athlete in the entire field. No one is more capable of dominating the boards and the low post as the 6-foot-10 kid from Whiteville, N.C., who showed his stuff against Duke in Maryland's decisive victory last month. If Wilcox stays consistent and avoids foul trouble this weekend, it could be the beginning of his final collegiate postseason.

Outlook: Duke placed three players on the all-conference first team in Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer, even though the Blue Devils finished two games behind Maryland in the regular season. Duke has owned the tournament in recent years, but Maryland is a mature, focused team with no fear of Duke, which will not go quietly this weekend. Everything points to a Maryland-Duke title game on Sunday, and if that comes to pass, maybe it will match the pulsating nature of last year's 84-82 Duke victory in the semifinals. Fans can only hope.

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