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April 7, 2003 Columns No Comments

The Morning Dish – Monday, April 7th, 2003

by Phil Kasiecki

Here we are, awaiting the national championship game. When the clock strikes midnight in mid-October, this is the night every team in America starts shooting for. In Kansas and Syracuse, we have contrasts and we have similarities. The contrasts start with the semifinal games, as Kansas routed Marquette and Syracuse pulled out a close one (closer than the final 11-point margin would indicate), but they don’t end there.

For Kansas, it has been all about seniors Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich. Time and time again, they have shown the poise of veterans who have been there and know how to win. Even if one is having a tough game, the other picks it up, and both keep playing to the end even if they are struggling. The Jayhawks don’t do it alone, as they have a good point guard in Aaron Miles, a scoring wing in Keith Langford who will be a key in this game, and as usual they have good role players off the bench like Michael Lee and Bryant Nash, the former a high school teammate of Miles.

For Syracuse, it has been all about Carmelo Anthony, and let’s not forget fellow freshman Gerry McNamara, a good player in his own right. Anthony had a career-high 33 points and hauled down 14 rebounds in Saturday’s semifinal, while McNamara always seems to be around the ball for key plays and has made his share of clutch shots during the season. The Orangemen have just one senior, as their next primary contributors have been sophomore Hakim Warrick and another freshman, Billy Edelin.

On the side of similarities, we have the schools themselves and the head coaches. Both schools have long been among the NCAA’s elite, and the head coaches have had a world of success at their respective schools. Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams have the most NCAA Tournament wins without a national championship (Boeheim has 37, Williams 34); one of them will drop off that list tonight. Boeheim is a rarity this day in age, having been at Syracuse for 27 years, while Williams has been at Kansas for 15 years.

It should be a great game, a well-played game and one that should come down to the wire in New Orleans. The Jayhawks will try to run and get easy baskets before the vaunted 2-3 zone of Syracuse can get set up, but the Orangemen shot 57% against Texas to minimize that. Each team has their calling card, and don’t think for a minute that either team will stray from it in this game.

Side Dishes

Felton Leads the Way: ESPN.com is reporting that Western Kentucky head coach Dennis Felton had a scheduled interview on Sunday with Georgia’s president, his second interview with the school this weekend at the Final Four. Sources say that Felton is one of three finalists, along with Creighton’s Dana Altman and former Iowa State and Chicago Bulls head coach Tim Floyd.

Doherty Talks About Mistakes: Former North Carolina head coach Matt Doherty told the Associated Press that he believes he made major mistakes with some of the changes he made upon taking the head coaching job there three years ago. When Doherty came, he brought his entire staff from Notre Dame, and that included ousting longtime Dean Smith favorite Phil Ford. From there, it was an uphill battle. Doherty is undecided about what he will do next, but he has not ruled out being an assistant coach somewhere.

Crean’s Mother Hospitalized: Marjorie Crean, the mother of Marquette head coach Tom Crean, was hospitalized Saturday night after complaining of numbness and tingling in her arms during the Golden Eagles’ 94-61 loss to Kansas. She was listed in good condition Sunday at the Medical Center of Louisiana-Charity Hospital, two blocks from the Louisiana Superdome.

Tonight’s Menu:

• The national championship game between Syracuse and Kansas tips off at approximately 9:18 PM Eastern time.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the national championship game!

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