INDIANAPOLIS -- There is no shortage of familiarity for this 53rd Final Four, which convenes on the Hoosier Dome floor tomorrow night. The four teams and coaches know each other in the best and worst way.
For North Carolina and Kansas, which do battle here first, the chords of recognition ring long and true. Tar Heels coach Dean Smith's college of basketball knowledge has graduated Jayhawks coach Roy Williams, a longtime Smith assistant.
And so the stage is set for the mirror images of Kansas and North Carolina and the rematch of UNLV-Duke. Here's a look at the matchups for tomorrow's semifinals:
* BACKCOURT: The starting guards for Kansas, senior Terry Brown and sophomore Adonis Jordan, have complained throughout the tournament that they haven't gotten the respect they deserve, and they're probably right.
Brown, the team's leading scorer at 16.4 points per game, is hitting 41 percent of his three-pointers, while Jordan has stepped in nicely for the departed Kevin Pritchard. He runs the team well, dishing out 4.5 assists per game.
North Carolina point guard King Rice has been the revelation of the tournament, putting aside three years of inconsistent play for a sparkling four-game set. The off-guard slot has been manned capably, if not always dazzlingly, by either Hubert Davis, the ACC's leading percentage three-point shooter (62-for-127), or Henrik Rodl.
* FRONTCOURT: The Tar Heels are quite solid up front, with seniors Rick Fox and Pete Chilcutt and sophomore George Lynch. Fox is the leading scorer (17 points per game) and the team's money player with fine inside/outside versatility, while Chilcutt and Lynch do the dirty work inside.
Kansas is short and scrappy inside. Senior Mark Randall (14.9 ppg., 5.9 rpg.) is the tallest player there at 6 feet 9. Mike Maddox, a 6-7 senior, is unafraid of mixing it up with bigger players, while Alonzo Jamison, a 6-6 sophomore, has had a good tournament, copping MVP honors in the Southeast Regional.
Edge: North Carolina.
* BENCH: Both teams are remarkably stocked, going at least five players deep. Rodl is the only veteran reserve who gets a lot of playing time for the Tar Heels, though the vaunted freshman class has played well in spots, particularly big men Eric Montross and Clifford Rozier. Kansas can counter with junior guard Sean Tunstall and senior forward Kirk Wagner, and freshmen Steve Woodberry and Richard Scott provide help.
Edge: A slight advantage to North Carolina because of its height.
* COACHING: If it's been done in coaching, Smith, making his eighth appearance in the Final Four, has done it. But Williams has won 75 games in three years at Kansas with name-brand talent, earning a reputation as one of the hot, young coaches. Since he learned from the master, he probably knows what the master will do. And he's only won one fewer national championship in 27 fewer years.
Edge: Ever so slight to Kansas.
* THE BIG QUESTION: Can Kansas hold its own on the boards against North Carolina, which has a pronounced height advantage up front? If so, this game could be a classic. If not, blowout city.
* PREDICTION: The Jayhawks have already proven they can beat quality opponents, handling Indiana and Arkansas in back-to-back games. North Carolina, by contrast, has been tested only once in the tournament, by Temple, and the Tar Heels nearly flunked. Look for the student to put one over on the teacher.
* BACKCOURT: Duke's Bobby Hurley supposedly had nightmares after his hellish performance (two points, three assists and five turnovers in 32 minutes) in last year's national championship game, but things shouldn't be as bad this time around.
For one thing, he's healthier and for another, he's shooting well. Plus his running mate, sophomore Thomas Hill (11.9 points per game), is one of the rising stars in college basketball.
But UNLV's Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt are otherworldly. Both average 16.9 points, are virtually interchangeable at either point or shooting guard and play unyielding defense. This is the best backcourt in the country.
Edge: A solid one to UNLV.
* FRONTCOURT: At Duke, Christian Laettner has finally escaped the shadow of Danny Ferry, and is among the top five low post players in the country. Freshman Grant Hill had a slow start, shaking off nagging injuries, but he has shown flashes of the promise forecast for him. Greg Koubek has a nice three-point stroke and has done a yeoman job, playing out of position at power forward.
Then there's Larry Johnson. At 6-7 and 250 pounds, he is as complete a package of speed and power as exists on the college level. Stacey Augmon, who will join Johnson in the NBA's draft lottery, added an outside touch to his incredible defensive skills, while center George Ackles is a quality shot blocker whose 8.3 points per game are a bonus.
Edge: The mother of all edges to UNLV.
* BENCH: If he could shoot, Duke's Brian Davis (44.5 percent) could be the East Coast's Augmon, because he plays stifling defense. Bill McCaffrey has slumped since being demoted to the bench in favor of Thomas Hill, but he is a fine free-throw shooter (84 percent). Freshman Antonio Lang and junior Crawford Palmer have helped in situations up front.
Junior college transfers Evric Gray, a 6-7 sophomore, and Elmore Spencer, a 7-foot junior, would likely be starters anywhere but UNLV, as would junior guard Travis Bice, who is a deadly three-point shooter (42-for-90 for 47 percent).
Edge: Micro-thin to Duke.
* COACHING: Last year in this space, the edge went to Krzyzewski for being able to manage his club in tight situations. There won't be a tight situation in this game.
* THE BIG QUESTION: How soon will Duke switch out of its vaunted man-to-man defense to envelop Johnson in players-to-player coverage, such as a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two? Follow-up question: Will it matter? Third question: Koubek vs. Johnson? Are you serious?
* PREDICTION: Krzyzewski is correct when he says that this Duke team is more athletic and generally better than last year's team. But this team is missing center Alaa Abdelnaby, shooting guard Phil Henderson and small forward Robert Brickey, all of whom would be better matchups for their UNLV counterparts.
Besides, UNLV is better than last year, too. The Rebels won't win by 30, but only because they'll have one more game to play. Make it 15.
NORTH CAROLINA (29-5) vs. KANSAS (26-7)
5:42 p.m., TV: Ch. 11.
Radio: WBAL-AM 1090.
UNLV (34-0) vs. DUKE (30-7)
TV: Ch. 11. Radio: WBAL-AM 1090.
Final Four by the numbers
UNLV vs. DUKE
UNLV .. .. ..Duke
Record 34-0 30-7
Avg. Pts. 98.3 88.4
Opp. Avg. Pts. 70.7 73.6
Margin 27.6 14.8
FG Pct. .537 .510
Opp. FG Pct. .397 .445
3-Pt. FG Pct. .408 .376
Opp. 3-Pt. FG Pct. .373 .345
3-Pt. FG-Game 8.1 4.9
Opp. 3-Pt. FG 6.1 4.5
FT Pct. .697 .727
Reb. Avg. 42.6 36.7
Opp. Reb. Avg. 35.1 33.9
Rebound Margin 7.5 2.8
Ast. Avg. 25.0 17.7
Opp. Ast. Avg. 14.0 13.5
Avg. Steals 11.5 9.5
x-Frntcrt Ht. 6-8 1/2 6-8 1/2
NORTH CAROLINA vs. KANSAS
UNC .. .. .. ..Kansas
Record 29-5 26-7
Avg. Pts. 88.1 84.8
Opp. Avg. Pts. 71.4 69.4
Margin 16.7 15.4
FG Pct. .506 .527
Opp. FG Pct. .418 .431
3-Pt. FG Pct. .406 .396
Opp. 3-Pt. FG Pct. .317 .345
3-Pt. FG-Game 5.6 5.6
Opp. 3-Pt. FG 5.7 4.3
FT Pct. .703 .605
Reb. Avg. 41.6 37.6
Opp. Reb. Avg. 34.5 34.8
Rebound Margin 7.1 2.8
Ast. Avg. 20.1 18.6
Opp. Ast. Avg. 14.8 12.4
Avg. Steals 8.9 9.4
x-Frntcrt Ht. 6-8 3/4 6-6 3/4
* x-players listed on the roster as F-G, F-C, F or C who averaged 10 or more minutes per game.