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What To Look For

March 21, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD

How they got there: Some team given virtually no chance a week ago is headed to the Final Four. That's because four of the top five teams in the South are gone, including two former No. 1-nationally ranked teams--Stanford and Cincinnati--as well as defending NCAA champion Connecticut.

Tennessee is the highest-seeded team remaining at No. 4, but has been the least impressive, outlasting Louisiana Lafayette with the help of some questionable officiating and defeating a Connecticut team crippled by Khalid El-Amin's ankle injury.

No. 6 Miami is in the Sweet 16 for the first time after knocking out No. 3 Ohio State--a Final Four team last year--in the second round.

No. 7 Tulsa showed its defensive credentials by holding Nevada Las Vegas and Cincinnati--without Kenyon Martin, of course--to 62 and 61 points.

No. 8 North Carolina is back from the brink of oblivion, showing it can defend on the three-point shot after all by defeating Missouri and No. 1 Stanford.

Difference makers: Tulsa turned to 6-foot-5 Eric Coley against Cincinnati and got 16 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, four steals and four blocked shots.

North Carolina point guard Ed Cota sometimes seems overrated, but he has played 13 NCAA games and has 101 tournament assists, which means something in crunch time.

Miami's Johnny Hemsley is a gunner as capable of a four-for-17 game as the nine-for-16 game he had against Ohio State.

Tennessee's go-to guy is supposed to be ultra-quick guard Tony Harris, but after four-for-14 and four-for-11 shooting in the first two rounds, he doesn't inspire confidence.

Team updates: Tennessee somehow won two games while shooting 39%.

Miami's only loss since mid-February was by one point to St. John's in the Big East tournament.

Watch out if it's Tennessee-Tulsa in the regional final: The Golden Hurricane defeated the Volunteers by 20 in the regular season.

North Carolina's improved rebounding, defense and ballhandling are reasons for postseason success.

How it shakes out: If North Carolina can't defeat Tennessee the way the Volunteers have played, the Tar Heels are underachievers after all. Miami-Tulsa is much tougher to call. Maybe Miami's experience in all those close Big East games pays off, but go with Tulsa's balanced offense over a hot-and-cold Hemsley. Final word: Incredible as it sounds, North Carolina has a solid shot at a 15th Final Four appearance. The Tar Heels defeated Miami by 10 in December, and neither Tulsa nor Miami has the size to counter 7-footer Brendan Haywood if he plays with the zeal he has shown.

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