Archive for March, 2009

FSU’s Mr. Douglas returns to green acres and makes hay

The hometown kid came back and felled Goliath. He also killed, from a purely Atlanta perspective, the 2009 ACC tournament.

One day after Toney Douglas put Georgia Tech out of its misery, the pride of Jonesboro unhorsed regal North Carolina, thereby guaranteeing Sunday’s championship game will be staged in an unpacked Georgia Dome. He scored 27 points as Florida State ousted the bluebloods of Tobacco Road, and not 10 seconds had elapsed after Danny Green’s last-gasp three-pointer clanked before Tar Heel Nation was scrambling to dump its tickets at an event where supply already trumped demand.

Put Carolina in the ACC final against anybody and you’ve got an event. Pit Carolina against Duke and you’ve got Dickie V. going absolutely crazy on ESPN. Substitute the football school from Tallahassee for the Baby Blue bastion of Tobacco Road, and it’s just not the same. Not that Douglas cares one whit about attendance, or the lack thereof.

“This is the very best feeling …

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Brackets will feel brunt of early Madness

The Madness began early this time. Four potential No. 1 seeds – Oklahoma, Kansas, Pittsburgh and Connecticut – fell on one dizzying day (and night, and early morning), and two more crashed Saturday afternoon. And now there’s a chance only one of the four No. 1 seeds announced Sunday will enter the Big Dance off a victory.

UConn lost in six overtimes, the end coming around 1:30 a.m. Friday. Oklahoma and Kansas were upset in the Big 12 tournament, and Pittsburgh was one-and-out in the Big East. Michigan State fell to Ohio State in the Big Ten, and finally North Carolina, the nation’s No. 1 team, was undone by Florida State at the Georgia Dome.

There’s a good chance all this motion will carry little down-the-road meaning. As Carolina coach Roy Williams noted Saturday, he has taken teams to six Final Fours, and only one of them entered off a conference tournament title.

Then again, it’s March, and the margin for error has just vanished. “There’s no tomorrow now,” Williams …

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Live from the ACC: Cans banned, Heels survive, Tech loses

Aluminum not allowed

I’ve got a great job. I get paid to go watch ballgames and I get to sit courtside sometimes — I do at the ACC tournament; I don’t at Hawks games — and I get to fall over backward in front of famous people (more about this later), and therefore I should never complain about anything. But every March it gets harder and harder to keep up with the Can Policy on press row.

Perhaps you’re unaware of this pressing (pun intended) dilemma. A quick recap: Drink companies tend to pay for tournament sponsorships, and one (Pepsi, let’s say) doesn’t like it when a media person plunks a 20-ounce bottle of Coke down on the press table because said company is worried that a TV camera is going to focus on the 20-ounce bottle instead of a millionaire coach who’s cussing the refs. (I believe it’s called product placement.)

True story: Because I’m an Atlantan and an avowed Coke guzzler, I went to the mezzanine at the Meadowlands on Final Four Saturday in 1996 to buy a 20-ounce …

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Live from the ACC: Good seats available, and Tech wins!

Remember when the ACC tournament was the toughest ticket this side of the Masters? Remember when — Wes Durham just told me this story — North Carolina fans used to contribute to the Alexander-Tharpe Fund at Georgia Tech just to have a way to assure themselves of tournament tickets. (The Carolina allocation was, at the time, significantly more competitive.)

Well, that was then. And this is now. And you could buy ACC tickets on Ticketmaster this week. I know, it’s a function of the economy, but still … when the high-falutin’ ACC can’t sell out in advance, what hope is there for the rest of the sports world?

Not that the first day of any conference tournament, the ACC included, is ever a truly packed house. The big boys don’t play on Day 1. (I’m guessing the North Carolina and Duke teams aren’t even in town yet.) But this afternoon session of Day 1 has the chance to be slim pickings. (Not to be confused with Slim Pickens, the greatest of American actors.) Miami and Virginia Tech …

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Could lightning (and thunder) strike for Tech, too?

Don’t say it can’t happen. Lewis Clinch saw it happen. He sat in the stands and watched Georgia win the 2008 SEC tournament on Georgia Tech’s floor.

Clinch and the Jackets had been eliminated from the ACC tournament in Charlotte on Friday, the night of the Atlanta tornado. He returned to campus and witnessed Billy Humphrey, his longtime friend who was then a Georgia guard, complete a four-day journey from last place to SEC champions. “He explained how it all felt,” Clinch said, although how can you explain the inexplicable?

Clinch is a senior. Tech’s next loss will be the last of his collegiate life. “As of Thursday, it could all be over,” he said, speaking of the Jackets’ Round 1 game against Clemson, but he feels there’s a chance this lost season could turn around, same as Georgia’s did a year ago.

“I’ve always been a big believer that anything is possible,” Clinch said. “My mother raised me to think anything is possible.”

Here we arrive at …

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The Madness begins, and a host of Wildcats are terrified

We come to you with a special postseason edition of the weekly College Basketball Insider. Already there’s a good chance the NCAA tournament could commence without: The nation’s winningest program; the school that won consecutive titles not so long ago; the school that has graced every edition of March Madness since 1985 and the little team that came within a missed three-pointer of the 2008 Final Four. How’s that for a rejection list?

Endangered Wildcats (Part 1)

Arizona enters the Pac-10 tournament having lost four of five and is ranked 52nd in the RPI, leaving its streak of 24 consecutive NCAA appearances in peril. Then again, what would you expect? Lute Olson missed last season due to health concerns, pronounced himself fit to return this fall and then quit in October, leaving the team in the hands of interim coach Russ Pennell.

Three No. 1 seeds from one conference?

It could happen. Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville are ranked among the nation’s top five in both …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Shirtless football coaches wild on video!

Tennessee recruiting: The gift that goes on giving

Doubtless you’ve read the rather amazing story by esteemed AJC.com colleague Michael Carvell regarding Tennessee’s pitch to high school juniors. If you haven’t, click the link and do so right now. It’ll open in a new window, so you can come back here when you’re done.

The Vol coaches’ idea of how to mold and influence young minds is rather basic: Rip off your shirt and start screaming. (I know this works for me whenever I want to make a nuanced point with the Bradley offspring.) Tennessee apparently borrowed this tactic from Ole Miss, where chief recruiter Ed Orgeron worked as head coach before getting fired. (The link is to an archived post on The Rant.)

And Ole Miss stole it from Southern Cal, where both Orgeron and Lane Kiffin, who figures to last maybe two seasons as Tennessee’s head coach, were assistants. The Trojans’ bit of lunacy can be viewed on this YouTube video, which was offered on the blog Dr. Saturday. And yes, …

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Atlanta Motor Speedway sees its glass as more than half-full

The Atlanta Motor Speedway folks were concerned. The Kobalt Tools 500 was their first Sprint Cup race in this era of belt-tightening, and NASCAR is different from other sports in that it has so many seats to fill. Ticket sales had lagged all fall and most of the winter, and there were days when Ed Clark didn’t know if March 8 would be a televised embarrassment.

It wasn’t. Even with empty seats conspicuous in the stands above the start-finish line, the Speedway president considered the day a victory “given what it could have been.”

AMS has never been blessed among sites. It was strafed by a tornado in July 2005, and its races have long been hampered by bad weather and worse traffic. It has been relegated to playing little brother to Daytona and Talladega and Charlotte, and some believe Atlanta could be reduced to one NASCAR event per year.

“I keep hearing that question: ‘Are we going to lose a race?’ ” Clark said. “We’re not. There are so many corporate …

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Georgia Tech needs a Keener mind on the bench

Since playing for the 2004 national championship, Georgia Tech is 77-75. This will be the Jackets’ third losing season in their past four. They’ve made a postseason tournament – and here we include the low-rent NIT – once since 2005. There’s more wrong than just bad luck. There’s mismanagement afoot.

Tech beat Miami on Wednesday. It was the Jackets’ first victory since Jan. 31, their third of calendar 2009. Nobody expected this to be a Top 25 team, but it shouldn’t have been this feeble. Tech starts two McDonald’s All-Americans but clinched last place in the ACC before February was done.

Miami, by way of contrast, has no McDonald’s All-Americans but is 17-11 and still retains an outside chance of making the Big Dance. Tech, which is 11-17, should have been no worse than that.

After Wednesday’s game, Paul Hewitt said: “This team has been unfortunate more than anything else. It hasn’t been a bad team.” It is, sad to say, such denial that holds Tech …

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Stop the presses! Old curmudgeon likes the Atlanta Hawks!

Today marks the 25th anniversary of my start date at the ol’ AJC, and to commemorate the august occasion — august to me, though you folks could well view it differently — I’m about to write a sentence heretofore untyped by these aging fingers:

I like these Hawks.

Yes, I know they lost to the Knicks last night and looked bad doing it. Yes, I’m aware they’ve dropped five of eight since the All-Star break. I don’t care. I know what I like. I like these Hawks.

Over 25 years I’ve been harder on the local NBA team than any other sporting entity — harder than on the Falcons, harder even than on the Cremins Yellow Jackets. And I’m not apologizing: If I’ve tried to do one thing over the quarter-century it was to write what I thought, and usually I thought there was something amiss with the Hawks. I nitpicked the Dominique Wilkins teams because they lacked a shooter; I was dubious about the Lenny Wilkens teams because Mookie Blaylock shot too much. But these Hawks have grown on me in a …

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