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NCAA Final Four Preview


Three No. 1 seeds and one of the best turnaround stories in college basketball history are headed for St. Petersburg, Fla., and the 61st Final Four.

Top-ranked Duke, Connecticut and Michigan State were among the favorites to get there since the preseason poll had them ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 5. Ohio State, coming off an 8-22 season, didn't even crack the Top 25 until January but went on to earn a No. 4 seeding in the NCAA tournament.

All four will be there this weekend and Connecticut, which is in the Final Four for the first time in school history, will play Ohio State, which hasn't been there since 1968.

Duke, which is making its fifth Final Four appearance of the 90s but first in five years, will play Michigan State, a school that was last there 20 years ago when a newcomer named Magic Johnson led the Spartans to the national championship.

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Duke's 85-64 victory over sixth-seeded Temple in the East Regional on Sunday means the Atlantic Coast Conference has had at least one representative in the Final Four every year since 1988, except for 1996.

Connecticut, which beat 10th-seeded Gonzaga 67-62 Saturday to win the West Regional, becomes just the second Big East team in the Final Four in the 90s, joining Syracuse in 1996.

Ohio State, which beat St. John's 77-74 Saturday to win the South Regional, and Michigan State, which beat defending national champion Kentucky 73-66 Sunday in the Midwest, gives the Big Ten the first multi-berth Final Four since the Southeastern Conference had two teams in 1996.

A five-year absence from the Final Four would be a deal most schools would take with a smile. Duke (36-1) is not most schools when it comes to Final Fours.

For the 12th time in school history, and the eighth time under coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils are in the national semifinals and they go in on a school-record 31-game winning streak.

The closest game Duke has had in the tournament was a 17-point win over Southwest Missouri State in the regional semifinals.

"There's still two games to go and maybe I shouldn't brag," junior guard Chris Carrawell said, "but this team has everything you could possibly want."

Michigan State (33-4) has won 22 straight games, the last three all by less than 10 points in the tournament. Saturday's game will be a rematch with Duke as the Blue Devils beat the Spartans 73-67 in the Great Eight in December.

Connecticut (32-2), the only other team besides Duke to be ranked No. 1 this season, had always seemed to find a way not to get to the Final Four. Whether it was a buzzer-beater by Duke's Christian Laettner or a path that went through North Carolina's home state, the Huskies had never gotten there.

Now, the team with the college basketball's largest media contingent and a fervent following in a state without a professional franchise, is there.

"Fate and other good teams and players got in the way and w didn't move on," explained Jim Calhoun, who can now remove his name from the list of the sport's best coaches not to reach the Final Four. "I'm sure ours fans our going to come en masse. There's nothing like HuskyMania. People don't realize how much people in our state care."

Ohio State (27-8) shattered one of the Final Four's revered bits of trivia. No team had ever reached the national semifinals without having been in the tournament the year before. Now the answer is the Buckeyes, who were 8-22 last season and won just one conference game. The addition of guard Scoonie Penn, who came along with coach Jim O'Brien from Boston College, was the key to the remarkable turnaround.

"They said when we came here we'd had a great season but it had to end here," Buckeyes guard Michael Redd said. "I wonder what they're going to say now?"

NCAA Championship Scores:

1939 Oregon 46, Ohio State 34
1940 Indiana 60, Kansas 42
1941 Wisconsin 39, Washington State 34
1942 Stanford 53, Dartmouth 38
1943 Wyoming 46, Georgetown 34
1944 Utah 42, Dartmouth 40, OT
1945 Oklahoma A&M 49, NYU 45
1946 Oklahoma A&M 43, North Carolina 40
1947 Holy Cross 58, Oklahoma 47
1948 Kentucky 58, Baylor 42
1949 Kentucky 46, Oklahoma State 36
1950 CCNY 71, Bradley 68
1951 Kentucky 68, Kansas State 58
1952 Kansas 80, St. John's 63
1953 Indiana 69, Kansas 68
1954 La Salle 92, Bradley 76
1955 San Francisco 77, La Salle 63
1956 San Francisco 83, Iowa 71
1957 North Carolina 54, Kansas 53, 3OT
1958 Kentucky 84, Seattle 72
1959 California 71, West Virginia 70
1960 Ohio State 75, California 55
1961 Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65, OT
1962 Cincinnati 71, Ohio State 59
1963 Loyola, Ill. 60, Cincinnati 58, OT
1964 UCLA 98, Duke 83
1965 UCLA 91, Michigan 80
1966 Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65
1967 UCLA 79, Dayton 64
1968 UCLA 78, North Carolina 55
1969 UCLA 92, Purdue 72
1970 UCLA 80, Jacksonville 69
1971 UCLA 68, Villanova 62
1972 UCLA 81, Florida State 76
1973 UCLA 87, Memphis State 66
1974 North Carolina State 76, Marquette 64
1975 UCLA 92, Kentucky 85
1976 Indiana 86, Michigan 68
1977 Marquette 67, North Carolina 59
1978 Kentucky 94, Duke 88
1979 Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64
1980 Louisville 59, UCLA 54
1981 Indiana 63, North Carolina 50
1982 North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62
1983 North Carolina State 54, Houston 52
1984 Georgetown 84, Houston 75
1985 Villanova 66, Georgetown 64
1986 Louisville 72, Duke 69
1987 Indiana 74, Syracuse 73
1988 Kansas 83, Oklahoma 79
1989 Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79, OT
1990 UNLV 103, Duke 73
1991 Duke 72, Kansas 65
1992 Duke 71, Michigan 51
1993 North Carolina 77, Michigan 71
1994 Arkansas 76, Duke 72
1995 UCLA 89, Arkansas 78
1996 Kentucky 76, Syracuse 67
1997 Arizona 84, Kentucky 79, OT
1998 Kentucky 78, Utah 69

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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