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The Daily Tar Heel

Players Take Extra Practice to Make Sure Dome Won't Affect Shot

The preliminary answer? Not much.

Domes -- because of their size and significant open space behind the baskets -- can create different looks than shooters are used to seeing.

But some of the ACC's best marksmen aren't concerned after working out with their teams in 1-hour sessions Thursday.

"It's similar to the Carrier Dome (at Syracuse)," said Virginia guard Keith Friel, who played at Syracuse when he attended Notre Dame. "It takes a little while to adjust straight on because of the depth perception, but the sides are pretty much the same."

The depth perception at the Georgia Dome might be a hindrance, but long-range bombers discovered a pleasant surprise during their workouts. The dome's rims have plenty of give in them, which can help misguided shots find the bottom of the net.

"The rims are really soft," North Carolina shooting guard Joseph Forte said. "I think they give a lot of leeway -- more than Carolina's. They remind me a lot of Duke's rims in Cameron (Indoor Stadium)."

All of the teams made it a point to do a lot of shooting, but some of the drills were more serious than others.

Maryland senior LaRon Cephas complained vigorously about what he felt was poor scorekeeping when his group of senior post players lost a contest to the underclassmen.

Virginia center Travis Watson wasn't so high-strung. He launched a truckload of 3-pointers during his free shooting period, taking many of the shots from so far away on the left wing that he was out of bounds behind the benches. Watson, who hasn't attempted a trey in a game this year, never made one.

Forte Still Undecided About Future

When he wasn't talking about the Georgia Dome's rims, Forte spent a good bit of time Thursday discussing his future.

But he didn't provide much of an update. Forte, a first-team All-ACC selection who leads the conference in scoring at 22.0 points per game, said he still has some work to do before deciding whether he'll pass up his final two years of eligibility at North Carolina and go to the NBA.

Meeting with former UNC coach Dean Smith, who finds out the probable draft status of Tar Heels who want to know, will be at the top of Forte's list of things to do.

"I mean, I think that would be a smart decision," Forte said. "Why not? Coach Smith is Coach Smith."

Blue Devils Ready to Run

All seven teams that practiced Thursday made sure they got used to the bounce and feel of the floor.

But while most teams were content to do some light running, Duke did some half-court scrimmaging.

The Blue Devils said they aren't concerned about getting tired, even though they might have to play three games in three days with their limited depth.

"It feels good," Duke guard Nate James said. "I think all the guys are in great shape.

"Most teams really fall off and aren't in the same shape they were early in the season, but all the guys feel energized. We're ready to go."

Who's Going to Win This Thing?

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Having won five consecutive games entering the tournament, Maryland is viewed by many as the favorite. Not surprisingly, Terrapins coach Gary Williams doesn't want to hear that.

"We are not the favorite," he said. "The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are the favorites."

Ah, yes. UNC and Duke. If everything shakes out according to the seeds, the two schools will meet in the championship game for the seventh time in 14 years.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Duke 95-81 on Sunday, wouldn't mind that a bit.

"I don't want us to get ahead of ourselves," Forte said. "But that's what we would like."

Sights of the Day

Duke's Carlos Boozer, who will miss the tournament with a broken bone in his right foot, dressed out for his team's workout. Boozer did not participate, however.

Virginia guard Donald Hand ran through drills while wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Hand is battling a small case of the flu but is expected to play today against Georgia Tech at 2:30 p.m.

"I think I'll feel all right," Hand said. "Doctors are taking really good care of me. I just have to get a lot of rest."

Juan Dixon knocked down three half-court shots at the conclusion of Maryland's practice. Steve Blake followed one of the bombs with one of his own.

The Sports Editor can be reached at