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Zion sets doubts aside, gets ready for NCAA's biggest party

The clock is ticking. The rest of college basketball has three weeks to figure out how to stop Duke's freshman force of nature, Zion Williamson. Williamson and the Blue Devils got the overall top seed in the tournament, while Gonzaga and two more Atlantic Coast Conference teams - North Carolina and Virginia - also received No. 1 seeds. Three teams in one conference on the top line matches a record, and offers the selection committee's guess as to who has the best chance to slow down Duke. The Blue Devils opened as a 9-4 favorite to win it all. Williamson, the 6-foot-7 man-child averaging 22 points and nine rebounds and a near-certain top pick in the upcoming NBA draft, is putting his future on the line - along with hundreds of millions in potential earnings - all in hopes of adding his own chapter to the history of America's most dream-indulged hoops extravaganza. He's doing it only four weeks after wrenching his knee when his Nike sneaker blew out and sent him crashing to the floor. He missed five games. He wouldn't dare miss this. "Everybody has their right to their own opinion, but I knew I was coming back the whole time," Williamson said in his return last week, when he led Duke to its 21st ACC tournament title. Speaking of shoes ... the companies that make them are intrinsically, financially and, yes, toxically intertwined with the players who fill out Division I rosters. The tournament will once again be played against the backdrop of a long list of problems - most of them related to money - that plague the NCAA and college hoops. LSU is the latest to have its name dragged through the mud, yet neither the NCAA nor the school appeared to think twice about placing the Tigers in a starring role the drama, which begins Tuesday with a pair of play-in...

Republicans fast-track bill to delay voter ID until 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina Republicans fast-tracked legislation on Tuesday that would delay requiring photo identification to vote for this year's elections, the result of yet-finished ID regulations and an unexpected race for a vacant congressional seat. The state Senate approved a measure that would slow down the required use of voter ID until the 2020 elections. The floor vote followed two Senate committees and preceded a House panel's debate. The bill could reach the House floor Wednesday and then move to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's desk. A law approved in December directing how voter ID would be implemented - after voters added the identification mandate to the state constitution the month before - had envisioned the requirement beginning with voters in municipal elections later this year. But new congressional elections starting in late April to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. raised questions whether the mandate could apply to the 3rd Congressional District race, for which absentee mail-in balloting begins Friday. The December law had already exempted from the mandate the upcoming election in the 9th Congressional District, ordered after evidence of illegal collections of absentee ballots. GOP Sen. Warren Daniel of Burke County, a bill sponsor, said the delay will give time to ensure all of the ID details are worked out by state and local election officials. The December law directed the State Board of Elections to adopt many rules and standards in the weeks and months ahead, including new rules for voters to include identification with mail-in absentee ballot requests. The bill passed the Senate on a largely party-line vote. Some Democrats were concerned the bill had failed to push back a Friday deadline on which the state election board would approve ID cards from public and...