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Star power dims on a crazy night

3/24/2006

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

By Andy Katz
ATLANTA -- What a night.

It's only fitting, even though neither would admit it, that both Gonzaga's Adam Morrison and Duke's J.J. Redick exited the season on the same night. They had dominated the headlines throughout the season. Their competition for player of the year and scoring champ was a friendly rivalry, one focused not on the chase but rather on the raw enjoyment of just playing ball.

Morrison's last game obviously was painful for him because of the ending. Redick's was a constant struggle thanks to the nagging defense that wouldn't let him free for his shot.

"There was one time when he missed a shot and he pounded the ball against the basket [stanchion] after a dead ball and we could see that he was frustrated," LSU's Garrett Temple said.

Redick's body language throughout the game was of a player who couldn't believe he was being poked and prodded and not getting a trip to the free-throw line out of it. He talked to the refs. He motioned to the Duke staff. And there were a few timeouts when he came to the bench and tossed his towel down and pounded his fist into the seat. He even took an inadvertent shot to the eye once that had him quite ticked.

"Well, I'm obviously really disappointed, and this definitely hurts," Redick said after Duke's 62-54 loss to LSU on Thursday, a game in which Duke had its lowest point total of the season by 10.

"The past four years have been pretty amazing, and I didn't want it to end," Redick said. "It's been a thrill and a blessing for me to play at Duke and to have the teammates and coaches that I have had at Duke. I consider myself one of the luckiest people. That doesn't help the pain that I'm feeling right now."

Redick will go down as one of the finest shooting guards since the early-entry NBA era began. He lasted four years, racked up scoring records and 3-point marks, and became one of the most beloved Duke players ever.

"He was a relatively unathletic kid, but he's got the most heart of anyone I've ever met," said fellow Duke senior Lee Melchionni. "He's one of the best players in ACC and Duke basketball history. He's been great every other game. He's a great player and the best teammate I've ever had."

Redick finished his last game with only 11 points, missing 15 of his 18 shots and committing four turnovers. That doesn't diminish the magnificent career he has had one iota. He has been, like Morrison (who likely will leave after this, his junior season), a pleasure to watch and cover.

The same is true of West Virginia. There wasn't a dry eye in the Mountaineers' locker room late Thursday night after their buzzer-beater loss. These fellows stuck together and made a run no one thought was possible.

There is a link here with all three. Redick came in highly touted, but no one thought he would do what he did at Duke. Morrison was hardly recruited and will go down as the greatest Zag ever (John Stockton was better as a pro than he ever was as a Zag). These Mountaineers were not given a chance to be an elite team two years ago, but a perfect storm collected these wayward hoops souls for glorious runs to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16.

What a night, what a season, what a run for all of them.

MID-WAGER

By Kyle Whelliston

WASHINGTON -- It's customary for the mayors of the two Super Bowl
cities to proffer a friendly wager of local goods before the big game.
But with the Mid-Major Super Bowl between George Mason of
the Colonial Athletic Association and Wichita State of the Missouri Valley Conference on tap Friday night,
do the league commissioners have a bet?

"No, we don't have a wager," CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said. "But
I'm sure when we go to the commissioners' meeting in June, we'll take
our wives out to dinner and treat them well. We've been very ornery to
live with these last couple weeks. They're both pretty well tired of
it."

Yeager and MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin have dragged their wives to a
whole lot of commissioner's meetings (Yeager has 26 years of service
and Elgin 18), but even though they now stand in each other's way when
it comes to basketball glory for their conferences, they're the best
of friends. At last weekend's Greensboro pod -- where CAA champion UNC
Wilmington and MVC regular-season champ Wichita State were stationed
-- the two greeted each other with a big congratulatory bear hug.

"There's a lot of mutual respect between us," said Elgin via
phone Thursday from Oakland, where he was watching the MVC's 13th-seeded Bradley
Braves fall to top-seeded Memphis. "So this is just for
bragging rights. We're just happy that one of our teams will be moving
on to play for a shot at the Final Four."

But who's paying for that dinner?

"He should pay anyway because he got four teams in, and I got two,"
Yeager said. "But I'd be more than happy to buy dinner if we win."

"Yeah, you can bet that whoever wins this one is buying a whole lot of
dinner," Elgin cracked.