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Terps, Jayhawks only top seeds in Final Four

The Associated Press

If everything worked out according to the brackets designed by the NCAA basketball selection committee, there would be four top-seeded teams headed to next weekend’s Final Four.

Monday, March 25, 2002

If everything worked out according to the brackets designed by the NCAA basketball selection committee, there would be four top-seeded teams headed to next weekend’s Final Four.

Sometimes it does, which is why Kansas and Maryland will meet in one national semifinal next Saturday at Atlanta.

Sometimes it doesn’t, which is why Oklahoma and Indiana will play in the other.

No. 1-seeded Kansas and Maryland completed the Final Four Sunday. The Jayhawks eliminated No. 2-seeded Oregon 104-86 to win the Midwest Regional, and the Terrapins held off No. 2 Connecticut 90-82 in the East.

No. 5 Indiana won the South on Saturday, topping Kent State 81-69, and No. 2 Oklahoma captured the West by advancing with a 81-75 victory over No. 12 Missouri.

The intrigue in the matchup of No. 1s begins with the coaches, both named Williams, both trying to win a first national championship.

Maryland’s Gary Williams took the Terps to the Final Four a year ago before losing in the semifinals against Duke, which went on to win the championship.

Roy Williams has taken Kansas to two previous Final Fours, losing to eventual champion North Carolina in the 1993 semifinals, and to Duke in the 1991 championship game.

Both have seasoned, focused teams.

Kansas has the highest scoring team in the country and complements that with a strong inside game. Typical was the rout of overmatched Oregon.

Drew Gooden and Nick Collison each had double-doubles by early in the second half, and the Jayhawks outrebounded the Ducks 63-34. Kansas had 26 offensive rebounds, leading to 31 second-chance points.

Gooden had 18 points and 20 rebounds, and Collison added 25 points and 15 rebounds as the Jayhawks (33-3) simply wore down the Ducks.

Maryland (30-4) had all it could handle from Connecticut. But in the end, the Terps used the senior savvy of Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon – and one key shot by Steve Blake – to prevail.

Baxter had a season-high 29 points and Dixon added 27, many of them crucial, to defeat the Huskies. Blake’s only field goal of the game, a 3-pointer that barely beat the shot clock in the final minute, opened a six-point lead and proved decisive.

Indiana made sure the Final Four would have a new look when the Hoosiers defeated defending champion Duke in the South semifinals. That made the matchup against Kent State almost anticlimactic, but coach Mike Davis’ team did not let down.

Indiana (24-11) hit 15 of 19 3-point attempts and opened a 20-point lead that Kent State could not overcome. The victory was costly, though. Tom Coverdale turned his left ankle and was in a wheelchair for the net-cutting ceremony. His availability next weekend is questionable.

For Davis, in his second season succeeding Bob Knight, the trip to the Final Four is vindication.

He was hired amid much criticism, an assistant thrust into a high-profile head coaching job in the high-pressure Big Ten. But the players supported him, and after a 7-5 start this season, the team jelled at the most important time.

Oklahoma (31-4) used the pinpoint shooting of Hollis Price and Ebi Ere to defeat Missouri. Price had 18 points, Ere 17. It was an emotional victory for Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson, whose father had brain surgery last week.

For Oklahoma, it will be the first trip to the Final Four since 1988.