Jackets check phones at the door

MILWAUKEE -- Shedding distractions and coming together as a team? There's an app for that.

OK, so it's analog. And it's the sort of strategy that would make even the most ardent Luddite recoil in horror. And, OK, it's not actually an "app" at all. It's called the off switch. And Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has his finger on the button.

Before the ACC tournament, Georgia Tech adopted a team "suggestion" by Hewitt that the Jackets relinquish their cell phones before the tournament to help each other focus on the task at hand. Georgia Tech made it to the ACC final, so the Jackets are trying the cell phone ban again:

"I felt as if we were a family for the first time," senior D'Andre Bell told the AP Wednesday. "Trust. More selfless moments out there on the floor. ...

"I wasn't surprised at all because anytime we were at the dinner table all you could hear was texting, buttons being pushed, looking down at the phone," Bell said. "Now it's fun arguments or insightful discussions about who we think is better in sports or where we came from or why we think a certain way. We really got a chance to learn about each other."

It's either a shaky look at the Jackets or a sad commentary on the isolating effect of modern technology -- probably both -- that it took this long for the hyper-talented team to "learn about each other," but late is always better than never in college basketball, and the Jackets picked a fine time to coalesce as a team. Georgia Tech will have a tough but winnable match up in its first round game vs. No. 7-seed Oklahoma State Friday. If Georgia Tech wins, they're likely to face No. 2 seed Ohio State, one of the six or so teams capable of winning the entire NCAA tournament.

Speaking of the Buckeyes, Ohio State's Evan Turner wasn't quite as impressed with the no-cell-phone rule. He'll keep his minutes and text messages, thank you very much.

"Not really, Turner said, when asked whether he felt a similar rule would help the Buckeyes. "I don't understand what that would gain. But we do things different here. Every program does different things. And if it helps them focus, and if it's a team thing, they're all doing it together, that's a great thing."

Great though it may be, Turner will lose one of his cell phone contacts in the process.

"I talked to my boy Iman Shampert before so I probably can't talk to him anymore, I guess," Turner said.

Judging from the cheers Turner got during OSU's just-concluded open practice -- a batch of kids in the front row were especially insistent -- I have a feeling losing one text buddy won't hamper Evan's social life all that much. The Jackets, on the other hand, need the focus. If they survive tomorrow, that very popular, nearly unstoppable guard from Ohio State will be waiting for them, cell phone in hand.