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Duke Gets Top Seed; ACC Gets Only Three Teams in NCAA Tourney

Posted March 6, 1999

— Some of Mike Krzyzewski's teams of the past have entered the NCAA tournament on a measured pace. Don't count the streaking No. 1 Duke team of 1998-99 among them.

``I think this team needs to take the lead and keep the lead - not just necessarily in a game - but we're playing so well. To let up now would be tragic,'' said Krzyzewski, whose top-ranked team will return to the Charlotte Coliseum in five days to take on Florida A&M (12-18) in the first round of the East Regional.

``I'm not sure you can get back up to speed again (if you lose it),'' Krzyzewski said following his team's 23-point victory over North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game Sunday - the 27th in a row for the Blue Devils.

The win all but guaranteed his program its third-ever No. 1 final ranking in The Associated Press poll.

``Some other (Duke) teams needed to be knocked back heading into the NCAA tournament, but this has been a terrific team,'' Krzyzewski said.

The Blue Devils (32-1) stayed close to home after being sent to the South Regional last year in what Krzyzewski viewed as an unfair seeding.

``I am not going to be upset about anything because last year I spent most of the time explaining the truth,'' said Krzyzewski.

The No. 1 seed was the program's third of the decade. Krzyzewski said his club enters the NCAA postseason confident and not worried about living up to other people's expectations.

``No matter what happens in March, no one can ever take away the fact that we're attempting to win the national championship,'' said Krzyzewski. ``That shouldn't be pressure, that should be excitement.

``And if we don't (win it) we'll know that we did everything we could to try to win it and we didn't let pressure stop us. If we don't get it, we don't get it, but it won't be because of pressure. It will be because somebody beat us.''

Krzyzewski expects senior leader and second-leading scorer Trajan Langdon to return for Friday's opening game. Langdon missed the final two games of the ACC tournament with a foot injury.

``He won't be able to test it until we practice Tuesday, but we've got to be careful,'' Krzyzewski said of the injury.

Duke's players said they're aware they'll be a target of every team in the 64-team field.

``We know that the NCAA tournament is a dogfight,'' said Shane Battier. ``You've got to strap 'em on and bring it every day.

``We're a very hungry team right now,'' Battier added. ``After tasting success last year we know what it takes to get there now. We're willing to do everything, anything possible to get there.''

Duke was one of only three ACC teams to get NCAA bids Sunday - the fewest for the league since only two went in 1979.

The Tar Heels (24-9) extended their NCAA tournament appearance record to 25 straight seasons. North Carolina, a Final Four participant each of the last two years, will take on Weber State (24-7) on Thursday in Seattle.

Guard Max Owens said the Tar Heels should be able to shake off a 23-point loss to Duke in the ACC tourney championship game.

``We know that we've still got a chance at the biggest title - the NCAA,'' said Owens. ``We're just going to try to stay on the same page as a team.''

UNC coach Bill Guthridge laughed when asked if he would like to face Duke - a team that beat the Tar Heels three times this year - again in the NCAAs.

``If we would meet them that means we would have won some games,'' Guthridge said. ``That would be the biggest plus.''

Maryland (26-5) was the third team from the ACC to make the field and will head to Orlando to play Valparaiso (23-8) in the South Regional. The Terrapins, in the top 10 all season, made the tournament for a sixth straight time.

North Carolina State (18-13) and Wake Forest (16-13) were left out of the tournament field. Both are likely to receive bids to the NIT.

The Demon Deacons had been to seven straight NCAA tournaments before reaching the NIT last year.

``We had held out hope until the NCAA pairings were announced that we would receive a bid because of the strength of our conference,'' said Wake Forest coach Dave Odom. ``If invited, I feel we will recover from a disappointing loss in the ACC tournament and play well in the NIT, which should have another strong field.''


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