MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -North Carolina coach Roy Williams took a break Thursday from prepping his Tar Heels for their South Regional semifinal by taking part in a Memphis tradition: Acting as honorary duckmaster at The Peabody Hotel.
The Duckwalk is a daily tradition at one of Memphis' finest hotels. At 11 each morning, amidst great fanfare, the ducks are brought from their penthouse digs on the hotel's roof. They ride down on the elevator and, as the crowd opens a path exit onto a red carpet that leads to the lobby fountain.
Williams said he has stayed at The Peabody 10 times on recruiting trips over a quarter century and had never seen the duck march. He's back in town with his top-seeded Tar Heels, who play No. 4 seed Gonzaga on Friday night, and jumped at the chance when asked Wednesday night if he would be the duckmaster.
``I'm corny as all get-out, but I thought that was neat,'' Williams said Thursday.
e cane.
``Ed Davis told Michael he's never played the perfect game,'' Williams said.
And unlike players sometimes, the highly trained ducks apparently knew their roles without much coaxing.
``Ducks were really coachable,'' Williams said. ``They went where I told them to go. They didn't balk at it. They didn't fake a pass to the open duck. They got to where they were supposed to.''
ENEMIES TURNED FRIENDS: This isn't the first trip to the FedExForum for either Syracuse or Gonzaga. Both played Memphis, the No. 2 seed in the West Regional, earlier this season with the Orange defeating Memphis 72-65 at the FedExForum on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs lost 68-50 to Memphis on Feb. 7 in Spokane and lost a trip here last season.
Guard Jonny Flynn doesn't think the third-seeded Orange will have much of an advantage from their victory when they play second-seeded Oklahoma on Friday night in the South Regional semifinal. He believes it's unlikely Memphis fans will pull for the team that handed the hometown Tigers their last loss.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few was a tad more optimistic. Gonzaga and Memphis face similar obstacles, most notably struggling for recognition after dominating a conference not considered among the country's elite. Memphis plays in Conference USA; Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference.
e in the past,'' Few said of the fourth-seeded Zags' matchup against top-seeded North Carolina in the second-game Friday night. ``This crowd has been unbelievable. In a good way. I mean this has been as loud an arena as we've played in, especially when Adam (Morrison) dang near incited a riot when he got into it with (former Memphis player) Shawne Williams.
Few called Memphis fans tremendous and hopes they relate to his team.
``It would be great to have that kind of support because I know, obviously, Carolina travels so well,'' Few said.
RELAXED ATMOSPHERE: Thursday's open practices at the South Regional contained the obligatory drills and fundamentals, but the atmosphere was rather loose.
There were a few halfcourt shot attempts from Oklahoma guard Austin Johnson. Syracuse went through a dunk exhibition, the biggest response coming when Jonny Flynn bounced the ball in the lane then went up for his dunk.
Tyler Hansborough of North Carolina got high marks for a spinning dunk during the Tar Heels' session. Then there was Gonzaga coach Mark Few passing on the traditional basketball shorts or warmups, opting for a pair of khaki cargo shorts.
Oklahoma spent the last few minutes of practice attempting trick shots. Johnson stepped beyond half court and was successful. Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel stood at the corner of midcourt trying to sink one on the bounce.
BBQ ANYONE? Memphis has a reputation for its pork barbecue. Most people have heard of the Rendezvous and its dry ribs, its entrance in a downtown alley and the underground atmosphere.
Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn got a taste of smoke-flavored pork when The Orange visited Dec. 20 and defeated Memphis 72-65. He is looking forward to partaking again, perhaps at the Rendezvous.
``It was in the hotel, and the food was great,'' Flynn said of his previous experience. ``I'm thinking if the barbecue was great in the hotel, I couldn't imagine how it was out on the street.''
North Carolina coach Roy Williams also is familiar with the Memphis landmark.
``I've always loved Memphis. Love the Rendezvous,'' he said.

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