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THE MADNESS of March began early for North Carolina—and for its Player of the Year candidate Tyler Hansbrough. Before the Tar Heels (28--6) rolled through the ACC tournament to lock up the top seed in the NCAA's East region, they completed a season's sweep of archrival Duke. The Blue Devils did not go gently in that March 4 game: Hansbrough, a 6'9", 245-pound sophomore center averaging 18.1 points and 7.9 rebounds, absorbed a hard elbow foul by Gerald Henderson that left his nose bloodied and broken. Hansbrough—who plans to stay in school rather than test the NBA draft—wore a protective mask in the ACC tournament, but his focus has not blurred. He's eyeing a trip to Atlanta for the Final Four.
On his battle scars
Aside from the nose, one of my upper front teeth was knocked loose on a separate play against Duke—I may have to get a root canal after the season because of it. I didn't think my nose was broken or that serious at first. It didn't hurt that bad. I've been hit a lot this season, a lot of bumps and bruises. But battle scars are nothing new: In high school [at Poplar Bluff (Mo.) High] my freshman year I broke my leg when I landed awkwardly after going for a layup.
On life in Poplar
On wearing jersey
number 50 for his brother Greg, 23
On learning Swahili
On former UNC coach
On the toughest
teams in the tournament