Bobby Cremins wasn't about to take the bait.
"Who's better, Bobby?" was the question everyone in the press room wanted to ask after Cremins' Georgia Tech team fell Sunday, 90-69, to No. 1 Duke, the same 21-point margin by which Tech lost to No. 2 North Carolina on Jan. 8.
"I got Clemson on my mind right now," Cremins said with a smirk. "I've got other things to worry about besides Duke and UNC."
But Cremins may have been the only person in Cameron Indoor Stadium who wasn't jumping at the chance to talk about Thursday's matchup in Chapel Hill.
"Duke playing Carolina, number one playing number two, that's all you can ask for right now," Chris Carrawell said with his trademark grin. "It can't get any better than this."
That's right, fire up the hype.
Don't blame Carrawell. You can't fault him for the media buzz that started, oh, somewhere around November and is now set to become an all-out feeding frenzy.
"It's just another game," Roshown McLeod said with a straight face.
Sure it is.
That's why North Carolina's Makhtar Ndiaye called Thursday's game "The Rumble in the Jungle." That's why Dick Vitale has been circling Feb. 5 on his calendar since Midnight Madness, baby. And that's why the press room at Cameron Indoor Stadium was overflowing on Sunday, full of reporters rabidly asking the same questions.
How good is Duke? Does this 20-1 start stack up to the 21-1 opening which led to a national championship in 1992?
Is there a better starting five (or six) in the nation than Carolina's? Has there ever been a UNC team this athletic, this talented at both ends of the floor?
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Fair questions to ask? Not at all. At least, not yet.
It's the beginning of February, Duke hasn't even played North Carolina once, and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball gurus are gleefully behaving as though Thursday's game will determine, once and for all, the greatest program in college basketball history.
What did all this premature elation mean on Sunday?
It meant that, despite assertions to the contrary, Duke had trouble keeping its focus on a Georgia Tech team which brought a handful of freshmen and a 13-7 record to Cameron.
Duke scored 27 points off 21 Tech turnovers, but the defense seemed to come in spurts. Did the Blue Devils slip into cruise control on a couple occasions?
"I think so," Carrawell said. "They scored a lot of points in the first half, more than any other ACC team has on our home court. What surprised us is that they ran the ball so much. They got a lot of layups."
Enter Shane Battier.
The 6-foot-8 freshman came off the bench to give Duke 27 minutes of fist-pumping, hard-nosed defense and rebounding, stealing the show for the second game in a row without even scoring in double figures.
If there was anything people wanted to talk about Sunday, besides the upcoming Game of the Millennium, of course, it was Shane Battier.
"To me, Shane is unbelievable," Trajan Langdon said. "He has a lot of things that he can do that he doesn't even show. He's so active, so aware, so exciting on defense."
Solidifying his role as defensive stopper, Battier teamed with Chris Carrawell and Mike Chappell to hold Tech All-America candidate Matt Harpring under his season averages in points, rebounds and assists.
Battier had three blocks and three steals (both team highs), drew two charges, outrebounded Harpring and didn't commit a turnover. About the only thing he didn't do was start the wave or sell popcorn at halftime.
"Battier's defense was..., wow, he's just such a good defender," Mike Krzyzewski said.
Bobby Cremins had a unique perspective on Battier's play.
"He should have gone to Georgia Tech," Cremins said wryly. "He said he liked Georgia Tech."