UNC puts it all together

Totally rebuilt team could finish 2nd, give R. Williams coaching honors

ACC Notebook

March 01, 2006|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

There was nobody for North Carolina coach Roy Williams to call, no colleagues for him to ask, "What did you do when you lost 91 percent of your scoring and 88 percent of your rebounding from last season?"

Before this season, no team in Atlantic Coast Conference history had ever lost its top seven scorers.

Still, Sunday's win against Maryland guaranteed No. 13 North Carolina a top-four finish in the ACC. That means a bye in the first round of the conference tournament.

If the overachieving Tar Heels (19-6, 10-4 ACC) beat Virginia (14-11, 7-7) tonight at the Dean Smith Center, they would clinch at least a tie for second place in the league - quite an accomplishment for a team picked by the media to finish sixth.

And the Tar Heels have done it with two former walk-ons, two freshmen and a second-team all-state player from North Carolina who was not highly recruited.

"We've been going by the seat of our pants, but we had high dreams and high hopes," Williams said. "They have really done an amazing job of coming close to helping us realize those hopes and dreams.

"The poise with which they've played, and the fact they can get frustrated but put it behind them and go on to the next possession or the next game has been key to our success."

The last national championship team to lose four starters was Indiana after the 1975-76 season, but the Tar Heels took an even bigger hit after winning it all last year - they lost all five.

Despite the North Carolina success story, Maryland coach Gary Williams said he would give the nod to Duke's Mike Krzyzewski for national Coach of the Year.

"Just the idea that because it's Duke, that they're supposed to be good, that's not a reason not to vote for a coach for Coach of the Year," said Williams, whose Terps lost to North Carolina and Duke twice this season. "You have to look at how did he do this year. Has he done a good job with his players? Obviously they've done a great job, so I think Mike should get it, but his chances aren't real good because I think a lot of people look at the surprise teams."

Redick's records

Even on an off-day, Duke senior J.J. Redick was a record-setter.

He scored 11 points - 17 below his average - in Duke's 74-66 win Saturday at Temple. While Redick's subpar performance was still enough to make him the leading scorer in ACC history with 2,590 career points, the Owls ended his streak of 16 consecutive 20-point games.

Krzyzewski said Redick was emotionally drained from the hype surrounding the records he has recently set, which included the NCAA career mark for three-pointers.

"I mean, it was like, `OK, what's the next record?' " Krzyzewski said. "With that attention and the demand - he's still a young guy - you can get emotionally drained. But you can come back from that.

"Hopefully now that that's behind us, he'll be who he has been. And who he has been has been kind of an extreme, so I don't expect that, either. ... It's good to see J.J. accomplish those things, and there's a price to be paid for all that."

No more than four?

It hasn't settled well with Miami coach Frank Haith that the ACC might only receive four bids to the NCAA tournament - especially when the ACC has won every ACC/Big Ten Challenge since the tournament began in 1999.

"I think that's crazy for us to only be looking at four teams when I look at some leagues like the [Big Ten] and people are talking about seven teams in that league," said Haith, whose team will face Maryland at 9 tonight at Comcast Center. "People forget we played that league in the Challenge and were very successful in winning games against that league."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

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