Originally created 03/14/03

Jackets set lofty goals



ATLANTA - Georgia Tech made sure it was eligible for the National Invitation Tournament with win in its last two games of the regular season.

Now the Yellow Jackets want much more.

"That's not on our mind right now. Our minds (are) on the NCAA tournament," sophomore Ed Nelson said.

To get there, Georgia Tech (14-13, 7-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) will have to win the ACC Tournament this weekend at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The Yellow Jackets play N.C. State (16-11, 9-7) in the quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. today.

Nelson isn't counting his team out.

"We can compete with all the teams in the ACC. This conference this year, it's very level," Nelson said. "A lot of the teams are equal. Anything can happen. On any given night, anything can happen. That's the way the league's been all year."

That's what will make this ACC Tournament - the league's 50th anniversary tournament - one of the most unpredictable. Last weekend, North Carolina upset Duke and Virginia beat Maryland.

"This last weekend kind of showed you how wide open it is," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.

Said Maryland coach Gary Williams, "That's what makes it interesting about the ACC tournament. Everybody always talks about the league being wide open or not wide open. This year, I think it's pretty accurate that on a given night there are a lot of teams that can beat anybody in the league. It should be a great tournament for the fans."

Wake Forest, picked sixth in the preseason, won the regular-season crown. Duke and Maryland, the past two national champions, limped home. North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia - all talented teams - struggled though up-and-down seasons.

The Yellow Jackets, who beat Virginia and Clemson to end the regular season, are confident they can continue their recent hot streak.

"We're just trying to win three in a row, get hot for three in a row and get to the dance," junior Marvin Lewis said.

N.C. State is also trying to get to the dance, and a victory against the Yellow Jackets would likely clinch that spot. The teams split the series this season with each winning on its home court. Georgia Tech held Wolfpack All-ACC swingman Julius Hodge to nine points in both games.

Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek is 5-1 in ACC Tournament first-round games.

"The one thing about this tournament situation is that everyone is rested. Everyone has had a week off," Hewitt said. "I think it comes down to how well your team is prepared mentally, how well you know your opponent."