North Carolina (28-6) vs. Arizona (23-9)


What: NCAA tournament semifinal

Where: RCA Dome, Indianapolis

When: Today, 5: 42 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13, 9

Latest line: North Carolina by 5 1/2

How they got here: Arizona received an at-large bid out of the Pacific-10, then beat South Alabama, 65-57, and the College of Charleston, 73-69, in the Southeast Regional at Memphis; defeated Kansas, 85-82; and Providence, 96-92, in overtime at Birmingham, Ala. North Carolina won the ACC tournament for an automatic bid, then beat Fairfield, 82-74; Colorado, 73-56, in the East Regional at Winston-Salem, N.C.; defeated California, 63-57; and Louisville, 97-74, at Syracuse, N.Y.

Conference record: Arizona finished fifth in the Pacific-10 with an 11-7 record; North Carolina tied for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an 11-5 record.

Ranking: Arizona was 15th in the last AP poll; North Carolina was fourth.

NCAA tournament record: Arizona is 21-15; North Carolina is 65-26.

Coaches: Lute Olson is 339-110 in 14 seasons at Arizona and 531-202 in 24 years overall. Dean Smith is 879-253 in 36 seasons at North Carolina.

Key matchups: Quickness of Arizona's A.J. Bramlett and backup Donnell Harris could give bigger Serge Zwikker fits. Bennett Davison against Carolina's Antawn Jamison is critical at power forward, and then there are the dueling freshman point guards -- Mike Bibby and Ed Cota.

What North Carolina needs to do to win: Dribble penetration by Cota, who's a very good passer, should help open up the inside. If the Tar Heels can force the Wildcats to play from the perimeter, half the battle is won.

What Arizona needs to do to win: Olson's biggest concern is stopping Carolina's inside game. To do that, the Wildcats will have to put strong pressure on the ball and play great denial defense. On offense, they'll have to get second shots.

Bottom line: As a fourth seed in the Final Four, it's easy to discount Arizona's chances. But Carolina's path to Indy is strewn with lower seeds and injured stars. This should come down to Carolina's big men -- and Arizona's inability to handle them.

Pub Date: 3/29/97

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