Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

Finally, 4 to do battle

March 30, 2002


— Kansas and Maryland have a lot in common when it comes to their men's basketball teams.

Much more than Oklahoma and Indiana, the other half of the much-anticipated Final Four matchups who square off today at the Georgia Dome for the right to play in Monday's NCAA championship.

Kansas and Maryland both prefer an up-tempo game. KU averages 91 points a game, while Maryland averages 85.3. And both hold their opponents to less than 75 points a game despite their run-and-gun styles.

Both teams won major conference championships. KU claimed the Big 12 crown with a perfect 16-0 mark, while UM went 15-1 in the ACC.

The Jayhawks are led by All-American Drew Gooden, while the Terrapins counter with All-American Juan Dixon.

Kansas was the No. 1 seed in the Midwest; Maryland was the top seed in the East.

Heck, the coaches  KU's Roy and UM's Gary  are both named Williams.

Gooden even called the Terps "a mirror image" of his Jayhawks during a news conference Friday at the Georgia Dome.

Kansas guard Jeff Boschee agreed. "I think they resemble us the way they get up and down the court, the way they rebound and work," he said.

There is one talked-about difference between these two teams: Maryland was in last year's Final Four, while it's all new for these Jayhawks.

Maryland point guard Steve Blake downplayed the experience: "All that means is we know more about the hype here. As far as basketball, it's all the same for both of us on the court."

Gooden wasn't so sure. "I think that's a big, huge advantage they have," KU's junior forward said. "They've been here. They've been in this atmosphere before. They were up 20 points against Duke last year. I watched that game at home."

Gooden watched the Terps' 95-84 national semifinal loss on television because the Jayhawks were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Illinois. The last time KU made it this far, Gooden was 12.

"You know, I thought they were going," Gooden said of last year's Maryland squad. "They were on their way to a win and they lost, so I think they're hungry. They got back here. It's hard to go to back-to-back Final Fours like they have. I think they're hungry and they got their eyes on the prize. We have to play a team that's determined, but we're a determined team, too. I think that's what makes this a good game."

Last year's meltdown is something the Terps would like to forget. They led ACC rival Duke by 22 points in the first half, led by 11 at halftime and lost by nine.

"I feel comfortable," UM guard Steve Blake said. "We know what to expect. It's a good feeling. We definitely expect more."

Kansas, meanwhile, is hoping to win its first national title in 14 years and its first under Williams.

The Jayhawks have said they want to win it for their coach and silence his critics, but they're getting tired of talking about it.

"I answered this question about 30 times the last two days," Gooden said. "It's something that we want to do for coach, but yet we want to do it as a team, as a whole. I think that's what counts  what we accomplish as a team."

How bad does Roy Williams want it? "As much as I want to breathe," he said. "But at the same time, it's not the only thing. I mean that."

Said Maryland coach Gary Williams: "Personally, I'd rather keep breathing."

While some observers think the matchup of two No. 1 seeds will determine who ultimately wins the national title, Gooden was quick to point out that Oklahoma defeated Maryland during the regular season and upended KU in the Big 12 Tournament. The Sooners' semifinal opponent, Indiana, knocked off top-seeded Duke in the Sweet 16.

"I think all four teams have done something and proved that they deserve to be here," Gooden said.

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