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Road to the Final Four

Some teams may be happy to be there, but if you want to win a championship you have to look at the Sweet Sixteen as just another round. When we were playing we wanted to go all the way, so we didn’t think about it as the Sweet Sixteen, we thought about it as a game against Alabama. That’s the mindset you have to have going in. I’m sure the coaches are all saying the same thing.

After that week in between rounds you don’t really feel rested, it’s more like restlessness. You’re playing almost every other day and then all of a sudden it stops for a week or so. But, you have to go out there and get ready as if you just played. You have to just pick up where you left off if you want to keep winning.

We played Alabama in the Sweet Sixteen in 1982 when we won the championship, and we never faced them before. I think they had more veteran players, but we had more dangerous players. We were the higher seed, but that goes out the window when the ball tosses up. You know you can get beat by anybody regardless of what ranking you are. In the beginning of the game, each team feels each other out, but then after a while you see where you can do some things and you figure out what you need to do to win. Teams adjust as they go along, but anyone can get hot and anyone can get cold. You just try to put your foot on their neck and wipe them out.

We didn’t do anything different out there. There might have been a play here and there that was a twist in our offense. Coach Smith was one of these coaches that adjusted well in the game. We worked with Worthy and Michael and the whole team and tried to sustain runs and then make a run of our own. If you’re up by 15, there’s so much time left and teams want to come back on you, but you have to settle in and take care of the ball.

This year North Carolina is playing Wisconsin, which like us in ’82, is a team that they haven’t seen much of before. For them to win they’ll have to play consistent basketball. They’ve been surviving in coming back on teams, but now it gets tougher with Wisconsin who is known to run their offense well through Frank Kaminsky, their big scorer, and capitalize on transitions. That’s one of the things that Wisconsin doesn’t allow other teams to do – get transition baskets.

Carolina is young and somewhat inexperienced, so in order for them to win they have to rebound the ball well, find a way to control the tempo and get as many easy baskets as possible. For Wisconsin to win, they just have to move the ball like they do, and rebound. Carolina is small and they give up rebounds. I love my Tarheels, but I think Wisconsin just might make it to the Final Four.

For the most part all of the teams that I expected to be there are there. One or two are gone. I don’t know what Tom Izzo does to get there but he always has his team in the middle of things. I think they lose to Oklahoma who also beats Louisville to get to the Final Four. I think Oklahoma might sneak in there. It doesn’t seem like Kentucky is going to lose. I can’t see Notre Dame beating them. Duke will make it.

Those are my picks – Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Duke – but anything can happen, especially if a team gets caught looking ahead. You’re always look ahead, but you can’t overlook your opponent now, otherwise you’re playing right into their hands.

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