KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It became a buyer's market for tickets to today's Midwest Regional final when No. 1 seed Kansas was ousted by Virginia, 67-58, in Friday's semifinals.
Even if the Jayhawks, who reside 40 miles away in Lawrence, had advanced, there is one Razorbacks fan who wouldn't have any difficulty getting into Kemper Arena. President Clinton, who saw Arkansas' last three NCAA tournament games a year ago, has yet to watch the Razorbacks this season, and the rumor is that he might be here today.
A Kansas-Arkansas matchup would have had the president rooting against Bob Dole, who is vying for next year's Republican presidential nomination.
The Razorbacks already have one good luck charm in tow. Arkansas is 12-0 when senior forward Elmer Martin starts, and coach Nolan Richardson said he wouldn't make the mistake of having Martin on the bench at the tip-off. That's what he did in the Southeastern Conference title game against Kentucky, the Razorbacks' only loss since Feb. 4.
Arkansas' junior class, led by Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman, is 11-1 in NCAA tournament play, the lone loss coming to eventual champion North Carolina two years ago.
Jones believes now
Virginia coach Jeff Jones, who is attempting to become the sixth man to play and coach in the Final Four, didn't think Harold Deane had what it took to lead the Cavaliers when he saw him in high school.
"We didn't like what we saw, and that shows you how much we know," Jones said "I didn't think he was very tough, and we didn't believe he could play in the ACC. It wasn't until that summer we realized we messed up. When he went to Fork Union [Military Academy], we did everything to insure he would go to Virginia."
Deane performed admirably as an emergency fill-in at the point last season, and was ready for more of the same when Cory Alexander broke his right ankle midway through this season.
Junior Burrough had his 10th double-double of the season in the win over Kansas, when Virginia trailed only once, at the 10-minute mark. . . . Arkansas is 1-4 against Virginia, the lone victory coming early in the 1987-88 season. . . . The Razorbacks, who were dubbed the Cardiac kids by Richardson on Friday, have won 12 games by five points or less.
No. 2 Arkansas (30-6) vs. No. 4 Virginia (25-8)
What: NCAA Midwest Regional final
Where: Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo.
When: Today, 5 p.m.
TV: Channels 13, 9
How they got here: Arkansas beat Memphis in overtime, 96-91, )) and Virginia beat top seed Kansas, 67-58, in the regional semifinals.
Outlook: The fourth-seeded Cavaliers will attempt to gain a spot in the Final Four against Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina. A victory by second-seeded Arkansas would match the last two NCAA champions in Saturday's semifinal round. It has been 11 years since Virginia made it to the Final Four; the Razorbacks are after their third trip there in six years. The key could come inside, where Arkansas junior F Corliss Williamson (19.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Virginia senior C Junior Burrough (18.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg) dominated in the semifinals. The Razorbacks are incredibly quick on the perimeter, but the defense of the Cavaliers' guard combination of Harold Deane (16.1 ppg) and Curtis Staples (11.8 ppg) was crucial in Friday's dismantling of Kansas. Virginia has won 13 of its last 15 games, the only losses coming to Wake Forest. Arkansas has lost just once in its past 14 games, to Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament final.