Boeheim's pessimism is rewarded a second time Syracuse in Final Four when he books no hotel

March 25, 1996|By Don Markus and Ken Murray | Don Markus and Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Before this season, the only time Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim forgot to send in his hotel reservations for the Final Four was in 1987.

That was the year Boeheim reached his first -- and only -- Final Four as a head coach. The Orangemen lost to Indiana at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on a last-second shot by Keith Smart.

"In 1987, I wasn't going," Boeheim said after his fourth-seeded Orangemen advanced to this year's Final Four with a 60-57 victory over Kansas in yesterday's NCAA West Regional final in Denver. "This time I forgot."

Boeheim eventually got a room through the National Association of Basketball Coaches. But now he'll gladly move to another hotel -- the one where the Orangemen will stay in preparation of Saturday's game against Mississippi State.

"Maybe I should plan not to go every year," said Boeheim, who was also an assistant on the 1975 Syracuse team that lost to Kentucky in the semifinals in San Diego.

Defining greatness

Roy Williams has quite a legacy coaching at Kansas. With 213 victories, he matches the legendary Everett Case of North Carolina State for the most wins by a coach in eight seasons, and his winning percentage (.792) ranks second among active Division I coaches behind Fresno State's Jerry Tarkanian.

Yet: "A guy asked me at the beginning of the season if there would be a void if I went down as the greatest coach never to win a national championship," said Williams. "I told my team right there in the locker room that if I never won a national championship but could have kids like those kind of kids that I was going to enjoy every single day of my life."

Williams has taken the Jayhawks to the Final Four twice, losing to Duke in the 1991 championship game in Indianapolis and to subsequent champion North Carolina -- Williams' alma mater -- in the 1993 semifinals in New Orleans. This was the closest Kansas has come since then, having lost in the regional semifinals the past two years.

Out like Flint

Damon Flint talked a better game than he played in Cincinnati's 73-63 loss to Mississippi State in the Southeast Regional final. Averaging 19.3 points in three previous tournament games, Flint was held to two points by the Bulldogs' tenacious man-to-man defense.

He hit just one of 12 field-goal attempts, and none of seven from the three-point arc.

"I just had an off-day," he said. "I had good looks. I just wasn't knocking down my shots."

Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins pulled senior forward Keith Gregor after five minutes of the game and never put him back in, but didn't pull Flint despite the horrendous shooting.

"Damon shot the ball well in the shoot-around," Huggins said. "He felt his shot would go down, but it never did."

The Bearcats never led in the game, and when they fell behind by 14 points with nearly six minutes left, their offense hit the skids.

"We panicked a little when they got a 14-point lead," Huggins said. "We tried to catch up all at once."

All-Southeast

Mississippi State placed three players on the All-Southeast Region team, including forward Dontae Jones, who won the outstanding player award. Also making the team from Mississippi State were Erick Dampier and Darryl Wilson.

Darnell Burton and Danny Fortson were named to the team from Cincinnati.

Bullard was bullish

Mississippi State point guard Marcus Bullard, who injured his right elbow in Friday's win over Connecticut, wore a heated pad on his arm yesterday to help keep it loose.

"It was stiff when I woke up," Bullard said. "But I got treatment all day to loosen it up."

Although Bullard didn't take a shot in the second half of Friday's game, he hit three of seven shots yesterday, one from the arc, and scored 11 points. He played the full 40 minutes, the only player not to come out of the game.

Bucking the odds

Mississippi State is the first No. 5 seed to reach the Final Four in 16 years since Iowa did it out of the East Region in 1980.

Iowa lost the national semifinal game that year to eventual champion Louisville, 80-72.

SEC power

With Kentucky and Mississippi State winning their regions, the Southeastern Conference has placed two teams in the Final Four for the second time in three years. Arkansas and Florida also made it in 1994.

Home away from home

Mississippi State has a three-game winning streak in Rupp Arena -- a win against regular resident Kentucky in the final game last season and two victories in this year's NCAA tournament.

The only other team besides Kentucky to manage that is Michigan,

Pub Date: 3/25/96

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