The matchups

Ncaa Men's Tournament

April 01, 2000|By Paul McMullen

Point guard

In a game in which controlling the pace is imperative, this matchup is crucial. In his third Final Four, Ed Cota is one of the nation's most experienced players. He must defend both starter Teddy Dupay and reserve Brett Nelson, a freshman from West Virginia, who have combined for 106 three-pointers. Edge: Even.

Shooting guard

The voters who kept Joe Forte off of their national all-freshman ballots are looking foolish, and the Tar Heels' top scorer will be closely marked by an assortment of Gators. Senior Kenyan Weaks has made 52.9 percent of his shots, and his lanky frame could trouble Forte. Weaks is one of the players who makes Florida's fullcourt defensive pressure so effective. Edge: North Carolina.

Small forward

Mike Miller and Jason Capel were two of the nation's top prep players in 1998, and do things that don't always show up in the box score. Their numbers are remarkably similar. Miller, probably the best player ever out of South Dakota, is compared to Larry Bird, while Capel, a coach's son, was one of the few Tar Heels to show a pulse in January. Edge: Florida.

Power forward

Between Brent Wright and Matt Bonner, Florida is getting 13.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Illness and injuries have slowed 6-10 Kris Lang. He sprained an ankle against Tulsa and went only 18 minutes, but he will have to play some major minutes tonight. North Carolina doesn't mind when Julius Peppers, a gift from the football team, subs for Lang. Edge: Florida.

Center

Maryland's Steve Blake was Udonis Haslem's point guard at Miami Senior High two years ago. Now Haslem's sidekick is Donnell Harvey, a furious 6-8 freshman, who comes in off the bench for him. Both look up to Haywood, but is he quick enough to cope with this tag team and the Gators' 94-foot game? For someone shooting better than 70 percent from the field, Haywood should get the ball more. Edge: Even.

Bench

Remember the "Blue Team" that backfired on North Carolina last month at Maryland? The Tar Heels have pared their rotation to two subs, Peppers and unreliable Max Owens. With Harvey, Bonner and Nelson, Florida has a second five better than some opposing starting lineups. Edge: Florida.

Coach

Kansas' Roy Williams and South Carolina's Eddie Fogler, former North Carolina assistants, assailed the recruiting ethics of Billy Donovan. Bill Guthridge, the most loyal Tar Heel ever, was criticized when his sleepy manner rubbed off on his team, but an injury-riddled rotation is finishing strong. Edge: Florida.

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