Two weeks ago, Maryland coach Gary Williams said that North Carolina was the team that could beat Nevada-Las Vegas in the NCAA tournament and nothing has happened to change his mind, especially since both teams have reached this weekend's Final Four in Indianapolis.
Williams rates both the Tar Heels and the Runnin' Rebels as solid favorites to win their semifinal games Saturday and advance to Monday's national championship game.
But before analyzing the semifinals, Williams pauses a moment to gloat over the ACC's success in placing two of its teams in the Final Four for the second straight year.
"It means we had the strongest league this year," said Williams. "It's two straight years and that has even more impact.
"That's a compliment to the quality of the league this year. You raise the level of your play by the way you play, and Duke and Carolina have played really well this year in the league and in the tournament."
Now, onto the matchups.
In the North Carolina-Kansas semifinal, Williams says although both teams are familiar with each other, given that former North Carolina assistant Roy Williams has taken the Dean Smith style to Kansas, the Tar Heels have "big inside depth" that should prove the difference.
The other thing North Carolina has is senior point guard King Rice, who has played well in the tournament and who Maryland's Williams sees as the key to the Tar Heels' system.
"There's no doubt in my mind that they wouldn't have got to this point without King Rice," said Williams. "He's played exactly the way Dean Smith wanted him to.
"Whatever he scores is a bonus. He gets the ball to [Rick] Fox and to [Pete] Chilcutt and he doesn't turn the ball over. They get a good shot every time down the floor because of King Rice."
In the other semifinal, Williams says Duke will have the revenge factor working for it in its rematch with UNLV. The Blue Devils were trounced 103-73 in last season's championship game and that will weigh heavily on their minds.
"You don't like to get embarrassed, especially like that, and they'll use that for motivation," said Williams. "Besides, the one big difference is that they'll have five days to prepare, rather than just one. They'll be fresh."
That said, Williams says the key is for Duke to neutralize the vaunted UNLV transition game and stop forwards Larry Johnson and Stacey Augmon and center George Ackles from throwing the long outlet passes to guards Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt.
If that happens, Duke will still have to shut down the Rebels' halfcourt game, according to Williams, which means it may have to play more zone than it is accustomed to.
"The one thing you have to do is to pack it in and see if they can hit from the outside," said Williams. "You might want to find that out early."
But the second-year Maryland coach still feels the Rebels have too much firepower for Duke, thus setting up a Carolina-UNLV final.
In that game, North Carolina's size, especially from the bench, will be a huge benefit.
"There's a team that can match up inside with Vegas," said Williams. "[George] Lynch is a good enough athlete to match up with whoever they have. And Carolina can come off the bench with some size [freshmen Eric Montross and Clifford Rozier]. That's 10 fouls. Vegas doesn't have that luxury."
But the pick is still UNLV. "They've got to be the favorite. They picked up their game against a really good Seton Hall team. They should win it," said Williams.