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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT

The First Look At The Men's Final Four

March 25, 1997|GEORGE DOHRMANN

NORTH CAROLINA (28-6) vs. ARIZONA (23-9) at Indianapolis Saturday, 2:42 p.m.

NORTH CAROLINA AT A GLANCE: The Tar Heels started Atlantic Coast Conference play a school-worst 0-3 but have won 16 in succession to end the season. Coach Dean Smith broke Adolph Rupp's mark for victories with No. 877, a 73-56 knockout of Colorado in the second round, and his squad, although only seven deep, has outscored opponents by an average of 13 points in four tournament games. California, in the round of 16, gave the Tar Heels their only true test, losing, 63-57. The Tar Heels are in the Final Four for the fourth time in the 1990s and 13th time in school history.

* ARIZONA AT A GLANCE: An 83-72 victory Nov. 22 over North Carolina in the Tip-Off Classic included a 31-point performance by Michael Dickerson, one of five freshmen and sophomores among the Wildcats top eight players. In its second Final Four in four years, Arizona registered its most impressive victory Friday when it upset tournament favorite Kansas, 85-82. It also sneaked by South Alabama and College of Charleston after double-digit deficits in the second half. In Sunday's 96-92 overtime victory over Providence in the Southeast Regional final, Arizona blew a 10-point lead with less than four minutes left in regulation.

NORTH CAROLINA PROBABLE STARTERS

F--Antawn Jamison (6-9, 222) No. 33

F--Ademola Okulaja (6-9, 231) No. 13

C--Serge Zwikker (7-3, 273) No. 45

G--Vince Carter (6-6, 208) No. 15

G--Shammond Williams (6-2, 180) No. 3

NORTH CAROLINA KEY RESERVES

G--Ed Cota (6-1, 177) No. 5

F--Makhtar Ndiaye (6-9, 245) No. 4

ARIZONA PROBABLE STARTERS

F--Bennett Davison (6-8, 208) No. 21

F Michael Dickerson (6-5, 190) No. 23

C A.J. Bramlett (6-11, 205) No. 42

G Mike Bibby (6-3, 180) No. 10

G Miles Simon (6-5, 199) No. 34

ARIZONA KEY RESERVES

G Jason Terry (6-2, 168) No. 31

F Donnell Harris (6-11, 214) No. 13

* GUARDS: In Simon and Dickerson, Arizona has two players to run at Carter, and a pair that will force him to defend full court. Bibby has played more like a senior than a freshman in the tournament, and if he can handle the pressure of matching Kansas' Jacque Vaughn, he should have no trouble with Williams, more of a shooter than a point guard. Cota has more of a New York toughness, and is a better fit against Bibby, having grown up guarding Stephon Marbury in youth leagues.

* FORWARDS: Jamison is too much of an athlete for anything the Wildcats have to offer, and Okulaja will force Davison to guard him out to the three-point line, opening the middle for his teammate to work. Cal zoned the Tar Heels and had some success, and the Wildcats may do the same to avoid a big game by Jamison.

* CENTERS: Zwikker is the only true center on the floor and Coach Dean Smith acknowledged the team has trouble when there is no one for Zwikker to match up with. Bramlett and Harris are too athletic for Zwikker so a zone may be in the works. Zwikker has failed to fully exploit the teams he has faced without a true center. He scored a total of 19 against California and Louisville.

* INTANGIBLES: Since a team meeting in January, North Carolina has not lost and is the hottest team going into the Final Four. But Arizona managed the tournament's biggest upset and has won three close games, while the Tar Heels were challenged only by Cal. And even that game was over before the final minute.

* COACHING: Dean Smith is the winningest coach in history and has juggled a thin group well. He is only one victory away from tying Rupp for second in Final Four victories with nine. He wisely allows freshman Cota to take control in key moments. Lute Olson has the Wildcats in the Final Four a year ahead of schedule, and has Bibby believing in himself and the rest confident their athleticism can compensate for a shortage of size.

* FINAL ANALYSIS: Jamison bailed the Tar Heels out of trouble against Cal and Zwikker isn't consistent enough to complement him inside. Jamison may be enough to lead North Carolina especially if help comes from Carter both on offense and helping to control Dickerson.

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