Ncaa Men's Tournament

April 01, 2000|By Paul McMullen

Where: RCA Dome, Indianapolis, Ind.

When: 8: 12 p.m.

How they got here: Both teams were at-large selections, Florida after losing in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament and North Carolina after it fell in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. The Gators were the fifth seed in the East Region, where they beat No. 12 Butler, 69-68, in overtime; No. 4 Illinois, 93-76; No. 1 Duke, 87-78; and No. 3 Oklahoma State, 77-65. The Tar Heels were the eighth seed in the South, where they beat No. 9 Missouri, 84-70; No. 1 Stanford, 60-53; No. 4 Tennessee, 74-69; and No. 7 Tulsa, 59-55.

Conference records: Florida went 12-4 as it shared the SEC overall and Eastern Division titles. North Carolina shared third place in the ACC with a 9-7 mark. Only once has it had more ACC losses

Rankings: Florida was No. 11 in the final Associated Press poll. North Carolina did not receive any votes in either of the major polls.

Coaches: Billy Donovan is 77-48 in four seasons at Florida, 110-68 in six seasons overall. Bill Guthridge is 80-27 in three seasons at North Carolina.

NCAA tournament records: It's Florida's seventh tournament. The Gators' only previous trip to the Final Four came in 1994, when they lost to Duke in Charlotte. In its 34th tournament, North Carolina is making a record 15th trip to the Final Four. The Tar Heels won titles in 1957, '82 and '93, and lost in the championship game in 1946, '68, '77 and '81. Their 80 tournament wins are bettered only by Kentucky.

What Florida has to do to win: The Gators have shown the ability to play a half-court game lately, but they are at their best running, pressing and displaying their gaudy depth. In Teddy Dupay and Brett Nelson, Florida has a two-headed monster at the point that must pressure Ed Cota.

What North Carolina has to do to win: The Tar Heels are uncomfortable when their rotation goes beyond the sixth man, and it's imperative that they pick their spots to run. Another big shooting game from Joe Forte is a must. If Brendan Haywood establishes himself in the low post, North Carolina's attack usually purrs.

Bottom line: The Tar Heels beat bigger Stanford, more athletic Tennessee and quicker Tulsa to get here. Their new-found defensive resolve might not be enough to stop a team with so many offensive options and gears.

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