Kansas City, Mo. There's a lesson to be learned from what happened to Kansas last weekend, and Memphis State coach Larry Finch has learned it.
"It's not etched in stone that we'll have the opportunity to get back here," Finch said. "This year we're the hunters. Next year I think we'll be the hunted."
As a No. 3 seed, the Jayhawks advanced to last year's NCAA championship game. This season, as the top seed in their own backyard the Midwest Regional they were bagged by upstart UTEP.
Meanwhile, Finch has the sixth-seeded Tigers in the Midwest final, where they'll meet Cincinnati for a berth in next weekend's Final Four.
Tipoff is scheduled for 12:42 this afternoon at Kemper Arena. A live telecast will be available on channels 5 and 13.
MSU AND THE Bearcats both belong to the fledgling Great Midwest Conference. Three times they've met this season; three times Cincinnati has won, once by nine points, once by 10, and once by a dozen.
Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins laughed when he heard that Finch had said the pressure of winning a fourth game against the same team might weigh on the Bearcats.
"Larry's really into that psychological warfare, isn't he," Huggins said. "I'd just as soon be 3-0 against them as 0-3."
Against the Tigers they're 3-0. Against their entire schedule the Bearcats are 28-4 with two conference losses to DePaul, a one-point loss at Michigan State and a 21-point loss at home to Indiana. They avenged the Michigan State loss, 77-65, in the NCAA second round.
The Tigers enter at 23-10. Among their achievements are an 89-78 decision over Missouri and two wins over Arkansas, one in February and one in the NCAA second round.
"You can go down our schedule," Finch said. "We play a tournament-type schedule. Our schedule is what got us here."
BUT WHAT got Memphis State three losses to Cincinnati?
Once factor was the Bearcats' defense, which has held MSU to 39.3 percent shooting this year and has held sophomore standout Anfernee Hardaway to 13-of-39.
"They keep moving and trapping," Hardaway said. "They don't let you set up your offense. They constantly trap, and you can't get a good shot off."
Another factor is the Bearcats' edge on the boards, where they hold an aggregate 128-104 advantage.
"We don't have to steal the ball every time down the floor to win," Huggins said. "We're not a bad half-court defensive team."
Overall, Cincinnati is a pretty good team, he said.
"THIS IS a good road team, and it seems to be a good big-game team, because they don't get uptight," he said. "If I start to get uptight, they start cracking on me. I think, when the tournament bracket came out, I thought we had a heck of a chance (to make the final eight)."
If ever Huggins was worried, it was before the regional semifinal against UTEP.
"I've got to say I was a little worried (Friday)," he said. "because most of the time on the way to the game they sing rap songs, and yesterday they were singing harmony."