Day at a Glance
Looking ahead to Indy
Posted: Monday March 27, 2000 11:56 AM
Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett had to sweat out a couple of games, but he and the Badgers are in the Final Four. AP
By Albert Lin, CNNSI.com
What do we make of our 2000 Final Four participants? We have three teams that eliminated the No. 1 seed in their region, and the remaining top seed: Michigan State belongs here; Florida is coming of age; North Carolina is proving that preseason top-five predictions by some were not so far-fetched; and Wisconsin is doing what everyone thought Temple would.
Michigan State has already beaten Wisconsin three times this season, by margins of 17, five and nine. We'd like to think Dick Bennett will come up with some wacky plan of attack, but his team is basically as-is. The Spartans know how to solve the Badgers defense, and as long as they don't get overconfident the outcome of this semifinal should not be in doubt.
The other one, though, presents more of a challenge. Florida has the best personnel of the remaining teams, but North Carolina has an NBA-sized and -skilled starting lineup. We're intrigued by the Heels' sudden surge, but think that Florida's depth -- provided the Gators push the pace -- will be the difference.
Which makes for a great championship game. Florida could easily upset Michigan State; the Gators match up as well with the Spartans as last year's UConn team did with heavily favored Duke. But the two sides differ greatly in one area -- experience -- and that's why the Spartans will cut down the nets.
No. 8 North Carolina 59, No. 7 Tulsa 55
Good for Bill Guthridge, who had nearly everyone calling for a nice retirement after his team's dismal 13-loss regular season. The selection committee was questioned for even including the Tar Heels in the field of 64, yet here they are on their way to Indianapolis. Playing against a team that is used to doing things its way (i.e., at breakneck speed), the Heels stayed calm and collected -- despite point guard Ed Cota's seven turnovers -- and never let the game get out of hand. Even though it was tight until midway through the second half, we never thought Carolina wouldn't win.
Joseph Forte, fr., G, North Carolina
What a game to go off for a career high. Forte scored 17 of his 28 in the second half, 10 during a 14-4 run that turned a tie game into a 53-53 Carolina lead. This wise-beyond-his-ears freshman has been UNC's go-to guy and only consistent scorer all season, and he delivered in a big way Sunday.
Desmond Mason, sr., F, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys' senior star was ice cold, hitting just 2 of 10 shots from the field (2-for-8 from three) for nine points and never getting on track. The Gators took Oklahoma State out of the game early with a 15-4 run to forge a 35-20 lead, and save a spurt late in the game the Cowboys offense -- led by Mason -- never had any flow.
That North Carolina beat Tulsa using six players
The Golden Hurricane was never able to dictate the tempo of the game, which would have played greatly to their advantage in quickness and depth. Carolina's sixth man is Julius Peppers, a football player who wasn't even with the team at the start of the season yet played 30 minutes Sunday. Cota and Jeff Capel each went the entire game, while Forte was on the court for 39 minutes. The Tar Heels were able to slow the pace, as the final score indicates, and keep their lineup from tiring.
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