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Yee-ha, Final Four becomes time to 'Cowboy up'

March 30, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

Here we go with the final installment to March Madness for 2004.

The Final Four is set. I've got three teams alive in eacy of my two brackets - Duke, UConn and Oklahoma State.

Are you of the mindset that Saturday's semifinal between Duke and UConn is the game for the national title?

Most people probably are. I'm not.

Georgia Tech beat them both during the season. So where does that place the Yellow Jackets? In most corners, not more than an outside chance because they might not even get past Oklahoma State.

It might be tough to bet against a team that didn't even have its best player - B.J. Elder - at full strength in Sunday's overtime win against Kansas. How big was it for Tech that Jarrett (Tire) Jack laid down the rubber with 29 points?

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And look at Oklahoma State. There's John Lucas, with his dad in the stands watching him pop a winning 3-pointer Saturday to push the Cowboys past Saint Joseph's. And there's Eddie Sutton, at 68 years of age and the oldest coach to reach the Final Four.

Gotta get my Ohio ties in right here. I was proud of Xavier's gallant effort against Duke as the Musketeers gave the academic hardcourts all they could handle. How much longer can Duke survive with Chris Duhon aching and J.J. Redick continuing to have shooting problems? I wonder how old Luol Deng really is.

UConn. Ben Gordon. Emeka Okafor. A romp in the Phoenix Regional over Alabama. The Huskies need everything Gordon has to offer and more 36-point games. They've got an aching Okafor back along with the elbow he banged up Saturday when scored but two points. UConn had better hope they've got trainers that can work miracles on Okafor before the tipoff against Duke.

Once again, the Atlantic Coast Conference will be ballyhooed as the best in the nation with two teams reaching San Antonio. Can't argue that point at all right now.

I thought, with my three active teams, I might be in the money standings in our brackets configuration. After Sunday, I was tied for sixth place with an outside chance of getting my "investment" returned. Oh well, that's par for the course when I've got money on anything.

Therefore, I am going to revert to some thoughts at the beginning of the year before I officially pick the champion.

I don't like Duke, so we'll forget them. And, I haven't got any particular thoughts on Georgia Tech. At the beginning of the season, I thought Okafor was overrated and even though he'll be rich soon, I still think he is overrated. The Huskies should thank Gordon.

That leaves Oklahoma State. I picked them in both of my brackets to reach the Final Four but not to win it all. In one pool I picked Duke and the other UConn.

There's no rhyme or reason to this, but I guess at this stage of the game I'd like the Cowboys to shoot 'em down two more games.




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for the Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311 or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com

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