SAN ANTONIO - As North Carolina's Antawn Jamison was leaving the court at the Alamodome after last night's 65-59 loss to Utah in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, the junior All-American kissed the court.
To some, it was a sign that Jamison was putting his college career behind him.
Jamison said he had something else in mind.
"I might not have the opportunity to play in the Final Four again," said Jamison, who finished with 14 points on 7-for-19 shooting, to go along with 12 rebounds. I don't think was a sign of my college career being over. Whatever my decision will be, my emotions were just going through me."
There has been speculation throughout the season that Jamison, the Associated Press college basketball player of the year, would opt for the NBA after this season. There have also been rumors that Jamison and junior forward Vince Carter would make their decisions together, either returning to Chapel Hill or coming out.
"I don't know what I'm doing. I'm not thinking about it right now," said Carter, who finished a dominating tournament with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting and was perhaps the only Tar Heel to play up to his potential last night. "Right now, the only thing I feel is disappointment for losing in the semifinals two years in a row."
Said Jamison: "No matter what our decisions are, North Carolina is going to be a deadly team next year with the players we have coming back and the players we have coming in. "
Jamison has said that the NBA's potential lockout could influence his decision. The Tar Heels will lose senior guard Shammond Williams and senior center Makhtar Ndiaye from their first six players. North Carolina has signed high school All-Americans Jason Capel and Ronald Curly.
Aside from sophomore point guard Ed Cota and junior forward Ademola OkulaJa, one key member of this year's team who'll return next season is coach Bill Guthridge.
"I'm planning on it," said Guthridge, 61, who took the Tar Heels to the Final Four after replacing Dean Smith last October. "I made a long-term commitment. If I feel like I hurt the program, I'll step aside."
Guthridge said he plans to meet with all his players when the team goes home.
Asked how soon he expected to hear from Jamison and Carter about their intentions, Guthridge said: "I don't look for it to be a quick decision."
He can still joke
Williams, who shot 2-for-12 last night after going 1-for-13 in last year's semifinal loss to Arizona, had a wry sense of humor about his shooting problems. "The one consolation is that I distributed the ball better," said Williams, who had five assists.
Without Carter's 10-for-16, the nation's top field-goal-shooting team was a collective 170f53 (32.1 percent).
ACC losing streak
After Duke and North Carolina combined to play in five straight championships between 1990 and 1994, this marks the fourth straight year that the Atlantic Coast Conference doesn't have a team playing for the championship.
Utah's victory gives the 37 year-old Western Athletic Conference its first opportunity to play for a title. The Utes lost in the 1966 semifinals to Kentucky. Texas Western, now Texas-EI Paso, was not yet a member of the league when it beat the Wildcats in the championship game that year.
Princeton of the West?
Former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley was in the Stanford locker room after last night's first semifinal game. He told junior forward Peter Sauer how proud he was of the Cardinal after its 86-85
overtime loss to Kentucky.
zTC "You guys played great," said Bradley, who has been a visiting speaker at Stanford this winter. "You're my team."
Talk about front-runners.
8, What happened to Princeton, Dollar Bill?
Rolling on the river
The Utah team was taking a boat ride along the Riverwalk Thursday when they passed a boat going in the other direction with the North Carolina players.
'We were pointing out all the guys we had seen on TV,' said, sophomore forward Alex Jensen. 'We were saying, 'There's [Antawn] Jamison. There's [Vince] Carter. We can imagine they were saying, 'Look, a bunch of tall white guys. Must be Utah.'
Stanford's Arthur Lee made all nine of his free-throw attempts yesterday, leaving him a perfect 35-for-35 for the NCAA tournament. ... There were 28 empty seats in the Alamodome because police confiscated those tickets from scalpers, who also lost $19,000 in cash.
Pub Date: 3/29/98