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Tourney trumps ACC stance on avoiding 49ers

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH — Coach Bobby Lutz and the Charlotte 49ers plan to make the most of their game against North Carolina State in the Syracuse regional.

Besides, who knows when they might get another chance against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference?

Since Lutz took over nearly seven years ago, he has gotten exactly two of them, and both were on the road. The 49ers lost in overtime at North Carolina in 1998, then traveled to Raleigh to face the Wolfpack two seasons later and won handily.

That's it, despite Lutz's annual calls around the ACC virtually begging for games.

``I don't whine about it, I just state the facts, and the facts are we call and they don't want to play,'' Lutz said Tuesday. ``But the fact is also that they have every right not to want to play us. It is totally up to them.''

And it's not just the Big Four that are ignoring him. Charlotte hasn't played Clemson since 1994, hasn't faced Georgia Tech since 1986 and hasn't taken on Maryland since 1975.

Perhaps at this point Lutz should be happy for the two opportunities he's had.

``They don't want to play,'' he said. ``I respect what everybody thinks is best for their program. If they feel that that is not in their best interest, then that is what they need to do.''

N.C. State (19-13) can't avoid the 49ers now. The teams play the NCAA tournament opener Friday in Worcester, Mass., nearly 1,000 miles away from Tobacco Road.

``When you come to college, you hear about the Dukes, the Carolinas, and you want a chance to get at them,'' Charlotte forward Eddie Basden said. ``We played N.C. State before, and I guess it didn't go their way, so they stopped that.''

As might be expected, Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek had nothing but praise for Charlotte (21-7). He denied going out of his way not to schedule the 49ers, saying simply it hasn't come up since their previous meeting.

Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith had a policy of not playing other in-state schools — except those in the ACC, of course — but Sendek doesn't have a similar plan.

``We don't have a particular prescription that we're going to follow,'' Sendek said. ``But we really haven't had any further discussion about playing them on a regular basis.''

The lack of games against the other top programs in the state gnaws a bit at Lutz. After replacing Melvin Watkins at his alma mater, he has taken the 49ers to the postseason six times, including five trips to the NCAA tournament.

Despite the success, he feels a bit overlooked locally, particularly given the popularity of the ACC in North Carolina.

``We tend to find that our perception outside of the state is better than it is inside the state,'' Lutz said. ``We recruit out-of-state kids because it's a lot easier, to be honest. I am not bitter about it, it's just reality.''

Sendek scoffed at the notion that anyone would belittle Lutz and Charlotte.

``I don't know who would look down on them,'' Sendek said. ``It would take somebody with a great deal of arrogance, because they are very successful, and they've got a great job.''

This matchup is far from the only intriguing one of the first round. Eastern Kentucky coach Travis Ford leads the Colonels against Kentucky in Indianapolis; Ford was a star guard with the Wildcats in the early 1990s.

While Sendek joked that he didn't laugh when he saw the pairing with the 49ers, he knows the selection committee often has a sense of humor with early round games — even if committee chairman Bob Bowlsby doesn't agree.

``It was pure luck of the draw,'' he said. ``That's the way the bracket went together. We don't match-make, we don't set up television games. That's just how it works out.''

This time, luck apparently was with Lutz and his team with the brackets were released.

``As a coach, the first thing I am thinking about is how are we going to win,'' Lutz said. ``And my second thought was I knew our fans would be really excited to play an ACC team. Perception-wise, it is important, it is a chance to play an ACC team.''

Page updated: 02/23/07 10:41 AM

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