Now this is an elite group

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If you're old enough to remember the first Gulf War, you, too, might have been chafed by the national media's frothy desire to paint Saddam's Republican Guard as "elite."

Elite Republican Guard this. Elite Republican Guard that. Was it trademarked or something? Did Saddam's lawyers send out a strongly worded letter warning American journalists that they must use "elite" in front of every reference to "Republican Guard"?

We all know how that turned out. Elite our foot!

The lesson, here, is that one must use the word elite most sparingly; otherwise, people and things undeserving of the privilege will be elevated unjustly, and the word will lose its very meaning.

But when it comes to talk of college basketball's Division II's "Elite Eight," you can believe it.

We're talking elite.

Tested under fire and the stronger for it, these are the best eight teams out of hundreds of Division II schools around the country. They have survived a season of challenges, tough rivalries, bruising conference schedules, frantic conference tournaments and do-or-die NCAA regional tournaments.

They have earned the label "elite."

Maybe we're a bit partial, but we're not sure any of the teams has earned it like Augusta State University has.

The Jaguars, who won the South Atlantic Regional Tuesday night on their home floor, persevered through a brutal Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament -- neither of which they won -- before topping the other seven teams left standing in the regional tourney.

And they did it after major surgery at the start of the season to star player Tyrekus "A.J." Bowman to repair holes in his heart.

This is a special group. This is an elite group.

In fact, this year's Elite Eight may be more elite than usual. Consider: There were eight regional Division II tournaments around the country this past week -- and five of the winners were No. 1 seeds.

In addition, the top four-ranked teams in the country won their regionals and will be among the eight teams at the championship round in Springfield, Mass., March 26-29. It's the first time that has happened since 1982.

And Augusta State belongs there every bit as anyone else.

What a special moment for Augusta State, and for Augusta, for this team to be able to cut down the nets on its home court en route to the national championship round in Springfield next week. And what a big and appreciative crowd to help them on their way in the regional championship Tuesday night.

These guys have already achieved something very special. The right to be called regional champs. The right to play another day, this time for the national championship.

But most of all, the right to be called "elite."

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gijoe7898 03/20/08 - 07:35 am
Forgot to add the word "holy"

Forgot to add the word "holy" to that as well. Seems every city in Iraq is a holy city.

DeborahElliott2 03/20/08 - 07:39 am
There is nothing "holy" about

There is nothing "holy" about IRAQ!

patriciathomas 03/20/08 - 07:47 am
Congrats to the Jags for the

Congrats to the Jags for the wonderful (ongoing) season. This convoluted article confused some into thinking you were writing about Iraq.

dashiel 03/20/08 - 09:43 am
Nice teaser, sports blog

Nice teaser, sports blog posing as editorial posing as vocabulary word for today. As one old enough to remember the first Gulf War, but too old to recall it clearly (no, googling is NOT the same as good synapses firing on all twelve cylinders), I recall Saddam's Elite Guard as a sort of chorus line of lookalike stand-ins for the show's star. A rumor arose that Saddam had been injured and had to have one of his legs amputated. Very bad news for the Elite Guard!

sjgraci 03/20/08 - 10:09 am
Only the Chronicle could tie

Only the Chronicle could tie in Sadam's Elite Republican Guard and Gulf War I with the Augusta State Jaguars and a basket ball tournament. Here's a better tie in: maybe it's that they too are "Republicans", and not very "elite" either.

Lion Fan
Lion Fan 03/20/08 - 11:35 am
Congratulations Jaguars! This

Congratulations Jaguars! This couldn't have happened to a better group of kids. They are truly special and yes - ELITE! Continued success in Springfield.

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