The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday September 29th

Battle for ACC Tourney Title Looks to Be a Free-For-All

The league's seven other schools only benefitted by what transpired on that rainy afternoon.

Duke's 95-81 victory meant top-seeded North Carolina will head into this weekend's ACC Tournament losers of three of its past five games.

The victory didn't change the fact that the second-seeded Blue Devils will be without center Carlos Boozer this weekend, when Duke will have to win three games in three days if it wants to claim its third consecutive tournament title.

In essence, the ACC's best of the rest will enter the spacious Georgia Dome with increased confidence that they can leave on Sunday with the championship trophy.

A favorable atmosphere exists for the league's other schools to gain some due respect. But that's bad news for many fans traveling farther south hoping to see a third meeting between Duke and UNC.

"The test for the Atlantic Coast Conference fan this year is Sunday afternoon, can we put 40,000 or right at 40,000 people in those stands no matter who's playing? If we do that, the decision to move to the dome was absolutely the right one," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said. "If we end up with a half-filled arena on Sunday afternoon, I will be disappointed.

"To me, that will be the litmus test."

The tournament is being held outside the state of North Carolina for the first time since 1989, when the Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils 77-74 at The Omni in Atlanta. More than 40,000 tickets have been sold for each of the five sessions at the Georgia Dome.

North Carolina kicks off the second session at noon today against Clemson, which defeated Florida State in Thursday's play-in game.

UNC arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday and -- contrary to custom --

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