Loss prevents Izzo from joining Crean in the Final Four

Anthony named East's Most Outstanding Player

NCAA Tournament


March 31, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Michigan State's 85-76 loss to Texas was the first defeat for coach Tom Izzo in a regional final in four tries.

A day earlier, former Michigan State assistant Tom Crean coached Marquette to its first Final Four since 1977.

Crean, Izzo and Oklahoma's Kelvin Sampson all worked for Michigan State's Jud Heathcote at one point.

"That would have been a double winner," Izzo said about the possibility of joining Crean in the Final Four. "I was hoping that Tom and Kelvin would have made it. That would have been three of Jud's boys. That would have been a special day for him, but two of us let him down a little bit."

ALL-EAST: Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic) led the All-East Region team as its Most Outstanding Player. Joining Anthony on the team were Auburn's Marquis Daniels, Butler's Joel Cornette, Oklahoma's Ebi Ere and Syracuse teammate Hakim Warrick.

SYRACUSE: The Orangemen are in the Final Four for the first time since 1996, when they lost to Kentucky in the championship game, 76-67. They also went in 1987, when it lost the title game to Indiana, and in 1975 under Roy Danforth, losing in the semifinals.

"In '96, we had the harder road," coach Jim Boeheim said after earning his third trip to the Final Four. "We had to beat Georgia and Kansas that year.

"This bracket probably set up a little easier for us than that one did. In 1987, we kind of sneaked up on people, but when you look back, we had pretty good players."

Boeheim said the 1996 team squeezed out every bit of its potential to reach the final weekend of the season.

"I think this team ... is a real good team," he said. "I don't think it's extraordinary to get there [with this group]."

TEXAS: As good a passer as T.J. Ford is, it's easy to overlook just how poorly he's been shooting in the NCAA tournament.

The Texas point guard went into yesterday's regional final shooting 29 percent from the floor and struggled again in an 85-76 win over Michigan State, going 4-for-12.

Ford, who shot 42 percent coming into the tournament, didn't hit a jumper until late in the second half.

But Ford continues to find points by driving for layups and drawing fouls. He made 11 of 13 free throws against the Spartans and set up numerous other baskets with 10 assists and other passes that helped his teammates get to the line throughout the game.

"To his credit, he didn't shoot that well but he got to the line 13 times," Michigan State's Chris Hill said.

"He's so aggressive to attack all the time," said the Spartans' Alan Anderson. "Either he's going to draw a foul or he's going to find somebody wide open, so that's what he kept doing."

KANSAS: The Jayhawks had plenty to celebrate after beating Arizona in the West Regional final.

The 78-75 victory Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., was the 1,800th for Kansas. The Jayhawks are headed to the Final Four for the 12th time, and the fourth time under coach Roy Williams.

Yet the school has not won a national title in Williams' 15 years on the job, and the focus on that elusive goal muted some of the joy at a pep rally in Allen Fieldhouse early yesterday.

"We're not done yet," said forward Nick Collison, still wearing a net from Saturday's game around his neck. "We want to come back here and be able to celebrate two more wins."

MARQUETTE: The reward for the versatile Golden Eagles and Crean is what they believed was possible all season -- a trip to the Final Four.

Now, after dismantling Kentucky and riddling the nation's toughest defense to win the Midwest Regional, Marquette has a shot at its first NCAA title since 1977.

"Our goal has been to make the Final Four and win the national championship," guard Travis Diener said.

The frenetic Crean, who must pace a couple of miles on the sideline during each game, revs up his team's emotions, but also makes sure they stay cool in tight situations.

There's a balance there, one very evident in Saturday's surprisingly lopsided win over Kentucky. And Marquette has what every championship-caliber team needs -- a star who can take over as Dwyane Wade did Saturday.

"Emotion is great, but without execution, you don't have a chance to win," said Crean, who's been at Marquette four years.

"We knew this game would be a test of all the little things. Our players care about each other so much, and it carries over on to the court. Our guys get along well and are together a lot. I don't think you win this time of year if you don't."

The Golden Eagles should be familiar with the Superdome, site of the Final Four in New Orleans. They've carried a photo of it, signed by all members of the team, around with them all season. Another motivational ploy by Crean.

"I just wanted to put it in their minds," Crean said. "I don't want to sound like Dr. Phil, but you have to have a vision of something before you can achieve it. You never know what will work."

ET CETERA: Syracuse and Texas have never met in NCAA tournament play. ... The Orangemen and Sooners combined for a ragged 43 turnovers and hit only seven of 40 combined three-pointers. ... The two teams also combined for 26 steals, the second highest total in all regional history. ... The 16-point loss was Oklahoma's biggest of the season and the Sooners' 19 turnovers were a season high. ... Syracuse is 18-0 when leading at halftime this season. ... In his four tournament games, Oklahoma's Hollis Price hit just 10 of 37 shots. ... Nine people were arrested for scalping tickets to the NCAA regional basketball tournament in Albany, N.Y. Plainclothes detectives made most of the arrests before the Friday night game between Oklahoma and Butler.

Sun staff writer Ken Murray and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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