March Madness Boosts Jamison, Butler
Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler could've easily sulked over a weekend that resulted in two more losses for the worst-in-the-Eastern Conference Washington Wizards. But the Wizards team captains still found reason to smile. Their alma maters -- North Carolina and Connecticut, respectively -- are both headed to the Final Four.
"That's what excites me more than anything," said Butler, who played at Connecticut from 2000 to 2002, losing to eventual champion Maryland in the Elite Eight in his final season. "UConn is in the Final Four. North Carolina is in the Final Four, so we've got a lot of happy dudes in this locker room."
North Carolina's victory over Oklahoma put a huge smile on Jamison's face, with his former school advancing to the national semifinal for the second consecutive year. "Nothing more than what we expect. When you go to Carolina, the season don't start until you get to the Final Four," said Jamison, who played at North Carolina from 1995-98, reaching two Final Fours. "A lot of those guys came back. The man reason they came back was to try to win it all. A lot of people didn't have them going to the final four, but I've been able to talk junk all year."
Jamison said that if North Carolina defeats Villanova on Saturday, he's headed to Detroit for the championship game on Monday. The Wizards play Miami on Saturday, but won't play again until Wednesday in Cleveland. "If they win, I'll be there. I'll find to way to take a couple of guys up there with me, and I'll have my Carolina blue on."
Then Jamison clapped his hands. Jamison spoke about the special connection among North Carolina players, adding that Tar Heels forward Tyler Hansbrough has come down for his summer basketball camp.
It was impossible not to get caught up in the NCAA tournament on Sunday, with Michigan State defeating Louisville at Lucas Oil Stadium, which is only a few blocks from Conseco Fieldhouse. Before the Wizards suffered loss No. 58, Butler was trying to recruit supporters for Connecticut and got engaged in a debate with teammate Brendan Haywood over where Connecticut senior point guard A.J. Price would go in the NBA draft.
Haywood teamed with Jamison and Vince Carter during North Carolina's 1998 Final Four team and returned in 2000. He sat in front of his stall in the visitors locker room, complaining about how the wireless connection wouldn't allow him to watch the Tar Heels play Oklahoma on the internet. He was unfazed about his pre-tournament pick Louisville going down.
The Arizona Wildcats were in Indianapolis this weekend after advancing to the Sweet 16, but they lost on Friday to Louisville. A few reporters that cover the team spoke with former Wildcat Gilbert Arenas after the Wizards' game. Arenas said he picked Arizona to win to tournament, but doesn't really pay attention to college basketball. "I don't watch the JV. My Arizona boys got knocked out," said Arenas, who reached the NCAA championship game in 2001.
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