A clone of Carolina no more Williams giving Kansas an identity

April 03, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- As they did two years ago at the Final Four in Indianapolis, the players on North Carolina and Kansas still joke about knowing the other's system as well as their own.

As they did before their teams met in the NCAA tournament semifinals at the Hoosier Dome -- and they faced each other for the first time -- Dean Smith and his former assistant, Roy Williams, prefer to talk about anything but their friendship.

"It's a lot easier this time," Williams said yesterday. "People are talking a lot more about the players than they are about the coaches. It's the players who are going to decide the game."

The setting is again the NCAA semifinals, this time at the Louisiana Superdome. But as similar as North Carolina (32-4) and Kansas (29-6) remain going into today's 5:42 p.m. game, the differences are much greater than they were in 1991.

In fact, they could mean the difference in the outcome.

Two years ago, North Carolina had more depth and less size than Kansas, which beat the Tar Heels, 79-73, to advance into the final against eventual national champion Duke. Two years ago, the Jayhawks had a lot less flexibility than North Carolina.

"I think they have more flexibility, and when they have [7-foot-2 Greg] Ostertag in there, they have more size, too," said Smith, whose memories of the 1991 game also include his two-technical ejection, the only one in the history of the Final Four.

Said Williams: "For our team, flexibility is more important. Steve [Woodberry] can play four different positions. Richard [Scott] can play three. It is something we need the way we play. The way North Carolina plays, they might not need it."

It is a tribute to Williams that he was not only smart enough to pilfer a large part of Smith's system when he left Chapel Hill, but that he has implemented his own philosophies as well in the five years he has been in Lawrence. The longer he's been there, the less Kansas looks like North Carolina.

Although Kansas doesn't have the imposing size of the Tar Heels, especially when 7-footers Eric Montross and Kevin Salvadori are on the court at the same time, North Carolina might not have the quickness to stay with the Jayhawks, especially when Williams goes to his three-guard set.

"I'm ready to bang with them if that's the way the game is going to be played," said Kansas forward Richard Scott, a 6-7 junior who makes up in strength what he lacks in size. "And I'm ready to run with them if that's what they want."

Said the 7-foot, 270-pound Montross: "We want to take it inside and see what happens."

Kansas has spent much of the tournament wearing down its opponents with depth and running away from them with the backcourt speed of seniors Adonis Jordan, Rex Walters and the underrated Woodberry, a 6-5 junior, coming off the bench.

North Carolina has spent much of the tournament wearing down its opponents with strength -- especially Montross and senior forward George Lynch inside -- and, in the case of its East Regional final overtime win over Cincinnati, shooting them down with the three-pointers of sophomore guard Donald Williams.

"It's hard to contain their guards," said Tar Heels point guard Derrick Phelps. "I'm just playing one of them, Adonis Jordan. I just have to keep him in front of me and keep him from scoring."

Said Jordan: "We watched film last night, and a lot of what their players were doing, we do the same. The team that can execute, score off their defense and play with the most poise over the last three minutes of the game, and the team that can hit free throws, is the team that will come out tomorrow."

Differences aside -- and Williams said, "I can name about 50 things we do differently" -- there are the inevitable comparisons between Smith and his most successful protege. The statistic that counts most is this: Williams is 1-0 against his beloved mentor.

But today, they won't be thinking about their friendship or their next tee time together. And today, North Carolina and Kansas will see teams that look more similar than any they faced all season, but not as similar as they were two years ago.

"We know their plays, and they know our plays," said Walters, who wears the same number -- 23 -- as Michael Jordan, the fellow who helped give Smith his only championship here 11

years ago. "It's going to be like a practice."

North Carolina (32-4) vs. Kansas (29-6)

Time: 5:42 p.m.

TV: Channels 11, 9

Coaches: Dean Smith (772-223 in 32 years at North Carolina); Roy Williams (132-36 in five years at Kansas)

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