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Fans Make Most Of Distant Seats

By Liz Clarke and Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 11, 2005; Page D07

Long after Maryland had lost its opening-round game to Clemson, Chris VanSant and Ronnie Ruffner of Frederick sat watching North Carolina State crush Florida State in yesterday's second game from their perch at MCI Center.

The game wasn't terribly exciting, but VanSant and Ruffner, Maryland fans attending their first ACC tournament, weren't about to leave. They had paid $150 apiece on eBay for their tickets in Section 409, Row P, seats No. 11 and 12 -- the highest vantage point in the arena.


Maryland fans Chris VanSant, foreground, and Ronnie Ruffner had a blast despite their roost in the last row at MCI Center. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

_____ ACC Tournament _____
 ACC tournament
An NCAA tournament berth looks unlikely for the Terps after yet another loss to Clemson.
Michael Wilbon: Maryland has to be one of the biggest disappointments in college basketball this season.
On Basketball: Clemson's Oliver Purnell has his Tigers by the tail.
Virginia holds off Miami, 66-65, and advances to the quarterfinals.
J.R. Reynolds scores a career-high 32 points to keep the Cavs alive.
N.C. State tops Florida St., 70-54, to set up a rematch with Wake.
Virginia Tech's Coleman Collins has come back strong from surgery.
Full-Court Press: News and notes

_____ Friday's Schedule _____
North Carolina vs. Clemson, Noon
Va. Tech vs. Ga. Tech, 2:30 p.m.
Wake Forest vs. N.C. State, 7 p.m.
Duke vs. Virginia, 9:30 p.m.

_____ Thursday's Results _____
Clemson 84, Maryland 72
N.C. State 70, Florida State 54
Virginia 66, Miami 65

_____ On Our Site _____
 ACC tournament
Images from Maryland's loss to Clemson, a defeat that likely keeps the Terps out of the NCAAs for the first time since '93.
More ACC photos
Talk about Maryland's loss.
ACC in D.C.: Dan Steinberg reports from the ACC tournament.
Where to go: Check out the best places to watch all the action.
An interactive guide to the hot spots around the MCI Center.

__ Tournament Preview Section __
 ACC tournament
The MCI Center plays host to the ACC tournament, considered by some to be the biggest event in college basketball.
John Feinstein: The tradition of the ACC tournament is what makes it so special.
Bracket and schedule
Although he is one of the ACC's best players, Tar Heels freshman Marvin Williams remains humble.
News Graphic: Freshman who might play big roles this week.
The improved play of center Eric Williams gives the Demon Deacons a potent inside-outside game.
Lee Melchionni has taken advantage of increased playing time and given Duke a major boost.
News Graphic: Tournament information, map and records.

_____ Team Capsules _____
Clemson
Duke
Florida State
Georgia Tech
Maryland
Miami
North Carolina
North Carolina State
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest


"We knew it was behind the basket in the upper deck," VanSant said. "We didn't know it was the last row."

Even though the Terrapins lost early, VanSant was determined to get his money's worth of basketball.

"I'm sure there's more of a buzz [today], but it's been pretty good," he said. "I've enjoyed myself."

Ruffner was ready for the evening game between Virginia and Miami. Underneath his Maryland shirt, he wore a Cavaliers T-shirt.

"What sucks is it's the home floor of a Big East team," VanSant said. "But where else could they put it?"

A few rows down from VanSant and Ruffner, in Section 410, Row C, Jim and MaryAllen Martin of Winston-Salem, N.C., seemed less interested in the game than what members of the media were up to, particularly former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins and Mike Hogewood, who were doing the pregame and halftime television show.

The Martins, who are North Carolina fans, got their tickets from Georgia Tech fans. They didn't mind the lofty vista.

"You do get a good view," said Jim, binoculars in hand.

Although North Carolina did not play yesterday, the Martins enjoyed coming for the first day action. They also didn't mind the tournament had moved north from Greensboro, particularly since their son lives in Washington.

"This is a great trip for us," Jim said.

A Political Presence

From his faded blue jeans to navy blue blazer, former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards had on so many shades of blue last night that it was hard to tell, at least at first blush, where his basketball loyalties resided as he made his way through the stands of MCI Center. But a simple question sleuthed out the truth.

"I'm a big Tar Heel fan! My kids are big Tar Heel fans!" said Edwards, 51, who graduated from N.C. State and earned his law degree at North Carolina. Edwards's two youngest children, Emma Claire, 6, and her younger brother, Jack, were in tow, letting go of their father's hands just long enough for him to shake the outstretched hands of well-wishers in Section 108.

Edwards pointed out he's a proud season ticker holder at North Carolina's Dean E. Smith Center.

"Of course I haven't been to many games; I've been traveling a lot for the last few years," he added, almost apologetically. "But we're big basketball fans and are looking forward to particularly the game tomorrow at noon!"

The top-seeded Tar Heels will face Clemson in today's first game.


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