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It is the best of times: when it's over for the Yankees; when the best thing you can put in an end zone is a 90-foot-tall stage with a teleprompter; and when a field goal gets you two points. Hoops are in the house.

Supermarket aisles and newsstand shelves overflow with light blue, red and dark blue covers heralding The Season. Duke's J.J. Redick is the cover boy of the month, shaking his fist, taking it hard to the rim, the steeliest glint in his eye. Street and Smith's College Basketball 2005-2006 Yearbook calls him "The Rain Man." Redick is everyone's pick for Preseason Player of the Year. Roy can relax (for a few months...) while Mike has to win it all before he defaults to the Olympics.

ACC Basketball Handbook 2006 is once again basketball-jones candy. You'll love it in Durham, especially, as they've added Mike Gminski and Jay Bilas, a pair of four-year Blue Devil lettermen, to the writing staff. Barry Jacobs contributes his annual State of the ACC. Celebrating his 30th year as an ACC basketball journalist, he advises us that this year all the teams are playing for second place.

Jacobs invented the off-beat but brilliant "list" coverage of basketball statistics when a No. 2 pencil was the software of choice. And this edition of the handbook does not let the reader down. There are polls and stats and profiles and rankings for several all-nighters. Why, there are even two pages of seating diagrams for all ACC arenas. I think as a joke they published the Duke ticket office phone number. As if.

Taking the multiple-cover marketing gimmick to a new level, ACC Basketball Handbook 2006 promotes their ³four collector's covers² with glossy illustrations. Hey, I'm not stupid--I only bought two.

But get this all you couch hoopsters: Athlon Sports College Basketball has even more lists! This national publication is nuts. There are cool sidebars all over the place ("Top Transfers," "Amazing Comebacks," "Put Up or Shut Up, The Pressure is On," "Recruiting Roundup," "Where They Went: Class of 2005" "Top 15 High School Sophomores"). Some of the stuff is sketchy, though--there's lots of full-page sports gambling and poker Web site adverts. And isn't that J.J. Redick being used as a pitchman for ESPN Pay Per View? Duke's women's basketball team, also Final Four bound, gets but five column inches in the whole mag. Get 'em Gail!

Looks like this year the guy Blue Devils decided they would only scrimmage exhibitions with teams bringing a mascot dressed as an eagle (note to Concordia and NCCU fans: It's cozier back at the nest...). Sure makes it much easier for the Cameron Crazies in their shout-outs. But beware!

Athlon Sports College Basketball points out in their article "Doesn't Duke Hire Fact-Checkers?" that the Crazies were tricked last year in a "case of hoops espionage." Some Maryland fans sneaked fake cheer sheets into the home team bleachers and the Crazies, using the bogus prompts, whooped it up with the wrong words and names during the introductions.

Contributing writer John Valentine can be reached at ajcg@acpub.duke.edu.

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