North Carolina (28-5) vs. Arkansas (31-6) THE FINAL FOUR NCAA TOURNAMENT


What: NCAA semifinal.

Where: Kingdome, Seattle.

When: Today, approximately 8:12 p.m.

Starters: North Carolina claims it has the best starting five in the nation, but other than good-luck charm Elmer Martin at center, Arkansas' is nearly as formidable. Besides matching the past two champions, the game brings together the past two MVPs of the Final Four. The Tar Heels will use an assortment of defenses to stop Corliss Williamson, the Razorbacks junior F who has averaged 23.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in this year's tournament. Senior G Donald Williams shot the Tar Heels to the title two years ago, but he's only North Carolina's third-leading scorer, behind sophomore All-Americans Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. The other Tar Heels starters are point guard Jeff McInnis and three-point ace Dante Calabria. Arkansas is slightly bigger, but even quicker, with F Scotty Thurman and guards Corey Beck and Clint McDaniel limiting North Carolina's options on the perimeter.

Benches: North Carolina is happy that C Serge Zwikker, F Pat Sullivan and G Pearce Landry, who played two seasons on the JV, have come on for an eight-man rotation. The Razorbacks, however, are the deepest team in the nation. Once Martin's token appearance is over, Dwight Stewart, Lee Wilson and Darnell Robinson still have 15 fouls to give against Wallace. Davor Rimac, Al Dillard and Reggie Garrett are dangerous three-point shooters who add fuel to Arkansas' high-octane press.

Intangibles: It's Dean Smith's 10th Final Four and Nolan Richardson's third in the 1990s. Smith has been accused of over-coaching his teams, and Richardson lets his play. Wallace's sprained ankle has healed, but McInnis still is slowed by a pulled groin muscle.

Key to win: For a week, the buzz about this game has been how it will be called. If it's too tight, it favors North Carolina. Too loose, it favors Arkansas. Both teams have tightened the clamps defensively in the NCAA tournament, and the point guards are of paramount importance. Beck needs to stay out of foul trouble and recognize North Carolina's changing defenses. McInnis, his counterpart, must hold up physically against the type of pressure that can't be simulated in practice.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad