Tulsa plays Arkansas in Dallas's Reunion Arena, where the Razorbacks have won 11 straight times. Tulsa, the school that gave Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson his first Division I head coaching job, took the Hogs to overtime in December, when Williamson committed just one turnover. Having gone through Arkansas's 45 Minutes of Hell three months ago, Tulsa isn't going to be intimidated by the Hogs.
Marquette's prayers rest largely with McIlvaine, the nation's leading shot blocker, who'll have to go up against Duke's 6'11" Cherokee Parks and then, in all likelihood, Big Dog. Last week McIlvaine told reporters what it was like being a kid in Wisconsin when the Warriors won their last title. "One kid threw his television out the window," McIlvaine recalled. "He said it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, so he didn't need his TV anymore."
Maryland will meet Michigan, with the Wolverines suddenly in the role of whiskered veterans, and the Terps—who start three sophomores and two freshmen—playing the upstart. Terrapin fans would make a mistake to boo Michigan center Juwan Howard, lest Joe Smith suffer the consequences. Howard's reaction to jeering is almost Pavlovian. "It's kind of like a welcoming," he says. "It motivates me." Howard heard raspberries when he stared down Pepperdine's 5'9" point guard, Damin Lopez, following a scramble for a loose ball, and he finished with 28 points and nine rebounds as the Wolverines won 78-74 in overtime. Two days later the crowd at the Kansas Coliseum in Wichita was at it again; Howard responded to the catcalls with 34 points and 18 boards in an 84-79 defeat of Texas. "Lots of basketball gurus talk about how guards win you games in the tournament," says Michigan coach Steve Fisher, under whom the Wolverines are now 12-0 in games decided by five points or fewer in the NCAAs. "Well, then Juwan's a big guard."
Michigan is one of six surviving schools that have won at least one NCAA title over the past 17 years. But the pick here is for Arizona, Arkansas, UConn and Purdue—none of which has ever cut down a net after a championship game—to make it to the Final Four. All four have good coaches, but, thankfully, they have guys who can play, too.