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Harris, 'Canes raising game

With four guards in its starting lineup, No. 8 Villanova places an extreme emphasis on perimeter play.

Duke and Miami, the second-hottest team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, are examples of a less radical practice, that three guards are also better than two.

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The Blue Devils continue to roll with a first five that includes 6-foot-1 Greg Paulus at the point and 6-2 Sean Dockery and 6-4 J.J. Redick on the wings. The Hurricanes' three-guard attack gets more dangerous with each game Anthony Harris plays.

Harris missed Miami's first seven games with a hairline fracture in his right foot. The last two were lopsided losses at Temple and Michigan. Without the junior point guard from Chicago, the Hurricanes lacked direction, but Maryland was the first ACC opponent to see Harris near full strength.

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The Terps' 14-point loss at Miami didn't seem as embarrassing when the Hurricanes went to North Carolina and won by 11. Coach Frank Haith's team had a decent conference debut last season, but only one of its seven wins was over an opponent that got to the NCAA tournament. When they faced Miami, the Terps were ranked No. 14 and the Tar Heels No. 20.

Miami has two home games this week, against Clemson tonight and Boston College on Saturday. It follows that with trips to Virginia and Florida State. Its February fare is more difficult, but the Hurricanes figure to get stronger along with Harris.

"He's not 100 percent, and it's something he may deal with the rest of the year," Haith said. "He wants to play, but we have to be smart in how we handle him."

Harris has averaged nearly 29 minutes of playing time in Miami's past six games and taken heat off Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite. Opponents have to pick their poison, as the three veterans have combined to make 41.1 percent of their three-pointers.

Virginia is another two-win surprise in the ACC. Beating Clemson at home and Virginia Tech on the road isn't earth-shattering stuff, until you remember that the Cavaliers were picked to finish last.

A thin roster has first-year coach Dave Leitao trying to shorten games. A common thread with Miami is strong guard play, as Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds combined for nine of Virginia's 17 baskets at Virginia Tech.

"We're relying on him for a whole lot, both he and J.R.," Leitao said of Singletary. "He had some help last year. Now he's carrying the scoring load, running the team, being the defensive leader, taking charges. A lot falls on him, which leads to fatigue. If we can sneak him some days off, he'll be more energized."

T.J. Bannister missed six games with an injury. Leitao knows what he'll do once the 5-10 Bannister's feel for the game is instituted in the rotation.

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"Now," he said, "I can got to a lineup with three guards."

Olympic roles

Dick Vitale makes a good point - never thought I'd type those words - when he says that Redick would be a worthy addition to Mike Krzyzewski's Olympic team.

That should only occur, however, if Redick makes an impression in the NBA.

Sitting in Athens two years ago, watching the U.S. men disintegrate against Argentina, the thought occurred that the Americans could have used another perpetual-motion machine that earned the admiration of Krzyzewski.

Few visitors to Cameron Indoor Stadium have ever gotten as much respect as Juan Dixon. He has made a career-high 37.8 percent from three-point range for the Portland Trail Blazers this season. Amid its superstars, the Olympic team could use some role players, and Krzyzewski has seen Dixon's ability to defend off the ball and hit the three, requirements for international play.

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Heavy load

Miami had a full week to prepare for North Carolina, which was playing on three days' rest.

Florida State has more than a week to get ready for Sunday's visit from the Tar Heels, who first have to go to Virginia tomorrow night.

"That's frustrating," said Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. "Television dictates so much. There's no question, I'd like to have a week to prepare for someone."

Don't sell Wake Forest stock just yet. Starting tonight against Georgia Tech, the Demon Deacons play three of their next four at home, with the next two against Florida State and Virginia Tech.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com


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