Monday , Mar , 13 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Will this be the year Redick, Duke break through?

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Back-to-back ACC Player of the Year
awards. One National Player of the Year honor. A two-time All-America. The
ACC’s all-time leading scorer and the NCAA’s career leader in three-point
field goals.

It’s pretty safe to say J.J. Redick has accomplished quite a bit during his
collegiate career. But there’s one significant piece of memorabilia missing
from the super senior’s lengthy and growing collection. And that’s a national

It’s also been a few years since Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, who rebounded
from a late slide in the regular season to capture yet another ACC Tournament
crown and another No. 1 seed in a region, cut down the nets on college
basketball’s biggest stage. Since that star-studded 2001 squad of Shane
Battier, Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and Chris Duhon gave
Coach K his third national title, the Dookies haven’t been back to the top of
the mountain.

While Redick and partner Shelden Williams have earned a rightful place among
the all-time greats at a school whose history is loaded with legendary
players, their tenure has largely seen unmet expectations by the Blue Devils
come this time of year.

Duke came really close when Redick and Williams were sophomores, reaching the
Final Four and losing by the narrowest of margins to eventual national champ
UConn in the national semis. But last year’s campaign ended in bitter
disappointment, as the top-seeded Blue Devils were bounced in the Sweet 16 by
Michigan State.

Redick and Williams have one last chance for that elusive title, and from the
looks of this year’s Atlanta bracket, a good shot to return to the Final Four.
Duke (30-3), which seized the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed with a gutty
victory over Boston College in Sunday’s ACC final, will begin its quest
Thursday against SWAC champion Southern (19-12).

The Blue Devils won’t have to travel far for the first two rounds, which will
take place at the Greensboro Coliseum, site of this year’s ACC tourney and a
comfy drive for the Cameron Crazies. Assuming Duke gets past Southern, an
intriguing second-round matchup against either eighth-seeded George Washington
or no. 9 North Carolina-Wilmington looms.

George Washington (26-2) had a free-fall in the eyes of the tournament
committee following an early KO by Temple in the Atlantic 10 tournament, but
the Colonials are one of the most dangerous no. 8’s you’ll ever see. GW will
face a stern test, however, from one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams
in UNC Wilmington.

Also working in Duke’s favor is the fact that the bracket’s second-seeded
team, Texas, was handed a humiliating 31-point loss by the Blue Devils in the
New Jersey Meadowlands back in December.

That game was clearly the low light in an otherwise outstanding year for the
Longhorns (27-6), and they’ll get a chance at redemption provided the two
teams can make it through to the regional final.

Texas will also have some home cooking through the first two rounds, where the
Longhorns remain in the Lone Star State. Texas will face Ivy League winner
Penn (20-8) in Dallas on Friday, with seventh-seeded California (20-10) and
No. 10 North Carolina State (21-9) also part of the bracket.

The Golden Bears are coming off a strong Pac-10 tournament, while the Wolfpack
appear to be headed in the opposite direction with losses in each of their
last three games.

Assuming Duke moves on to the Georgia Dome for the Sweet 16, the Blue Devils
may face a formidable challenge from Louisiana State (23-8), which
surprisingly was given a No. 4 seed despite winning the SEC regular-season
title. Tennessee, which finished two games back of the Tigers in conference
play, was awarded a No. 2 in the Washington bracket.

LSU will play its opener in Jacksonville Thursday against 13th-seeded Iona
(23-7), which is coached by former NBA center Jeff Ruland. A Tigers win could
set up an marquee second-round showdown with red-hot Syracuse (23-11), which
went from a possible NIT participant to a fifth seed after its amazing
performance at this week’s Big East Tournament.

The Orange will take on 12th-seeded Texas A&M (21-8), which received its first
invite to the Big Dance since 1987, in the first round.

The label of the bracket’s hottest team may apply to third-seeded Iowa (25-8),
which has won five in a row and a beat a potential No. 1 seed in Ohio State to
capture the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday. The Hawkeyes tip off their NCAA
tourney Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich. against Southland champ Northwestern
State (25-7).

Sixth-seeded West Virginia (20-10), one of a record eight representatives from
the Big East, will meet Southern Illinois (22-10) in an intriguing first-round
matchup. The Salukis won the tournament of the rugged Missouri Valley, which
received the most NCAA bids (four) in one year in its existence. The winner of
that showdown will face the Iowa-Northwestern State victor.