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For True-Blue ACC Fans, Museums Are Just a Backdrop

For This Visit, Eyes Are Strictly on the Ball

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page B02

Driving past the Washington Monument on their way into town the other night, Kent Underwood and Steven Stewart mulled the prospect of visiting a few tourist spots like Air and Space or another of the Smithsonian museums.

The discussion, they said, was over by the time they breezed past the White House.


North Carolina and Clemson square off in the first game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Fans who couldn't buy tickets crowded into bars and restaurants near MCI Center. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

_____ ACC Tournament _____
 ACC tournament
In what could be his last game coaching Virginia, Pete Gillen, pictured, and the Cavaliers lose to Duke, 76-64.
Michael Wilbon: There's evidence that tells us the ACC is the best league right now.
Georgia Tech pulls away to oust Virginia Tech, 73-54.
North Carolina survives a scare from Clemson and escapes, 88-81.
Playing without Chris Paul, Wake Forest falls to N.C. State, 81-65.
On Basketball: Expectations may be the most difficult thing coaches and their players face.
Full-Court Press: News and notes

__ Saturday's Schedule __
UNC vs. Georgia Tech, 1:30 p.m.
N.C. State vs. Duke, 4 p.m.

__ Friday's Results __
North Carolina 88, Clemson 81
Georgia Tech 73, Virginia Tech 54
N.C. State 81, Wake Forest 65
Duke 76, Virginia 64

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

__ Multimedia __
Video: Post's Matt Rennie talks about Maryland's loss, Virginia's win.

_____ On Our Site _____
 ACC tournament
Friday's photos
Images from Maryland's loss to Clemson, a defeat that likely keeps the Terps out of the NCAAs for the first time since '93.
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


Since Thursday, the North Carolinians have been camped out at only one Washington attraction: MCI Center, where legions of basketball fans are attending the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

"We're the biggest geeks over this," said Underwood, 42, a Durham postal clerk, standing outside the arena a full two hours before yesterday's first game began.

It's a devotion that is not without demands. For the first two days, the games began at noon and didn't end until after 9 p.m., which made touring the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery a challenge.

That is, if there was any interest.

"Not this weekend," said Stewart, the city manager of Carrboro, N.C., who was rooting for Wake Forest. "It's not about the city. It's about the game."

Most years, the tournament is held in North Carolina, in Greensboro or Durham or Charlotte. ACC officials moved the games to Washington this year for the first time since 1987 with the hopes of expanding interest in the tournament.

For some fans, the new location raised the possibility of mixing basketball and sightseeing, as long as they could persuade their traveling companions. Mary Jane Trope, 71, thought it might be nice to sneak in a visit to the U.S. Capitol between games. Her husband, Arnie, 71, thought otherwise.

"We're here for basketball," he pronounced, as they stood outside the arena, both dressed in the orange and burgundy jackets of his alma mater, Virginia Tech.

At that moment, about an hour before the first game was to begin, they were surrounded by hundreds of fans, some searching for tickets and others greeting old friends, so absorbed in the moment that they seemed oblivious to the capital's sights and sounds, including a sidewalk act offered by Spencer Lancaster, 47, who uses his hands as a flute to whistle melodies.

"Get ready! I'm back in town, ladies and gentlemen!" he shouted after performing a rendition of the Beatles' "Yesterday." No one stopped to drop money in his jug.

In many cases, the fans wore their allegiance on their sleeves, and everywhere else.

Rhoda Osterneck of Chapel Hill, who said she has attended each ACC tournament since 1974, put on blue mascara and eyeliner, the colors of her University of North Carolina Tar Heels. On her ears, she wore silver earrings in the shape of basketball hoops. A Tar Heel pin was on her blouse.


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