UConn, OSU happily remember the Alamo

Mar 30, 2004 8:00 AM

The ACC may be the best conference in college basketball, but both its representatives in the Final Four are going down.

San Antonio’s Alamodome provides the venue for what should be two outstanding semifinal battles in another stellar NCAA tournament. I’m told there is another tourney going on at Madison Square Garden involving four teams attempting to become the 66th best college basketball team in the nation.

Neither Rutgers, Iowa State, Oregon or Michigan were good enough to make the field of 64 (plus 1). We’ll get to that Final Four later.

It has been a nice run for us, going 6-2 in the first round, 5-3 in the second round and 4-0 this past weekend. However, our personal favorites Nevada, Xavier and St. Joseph’s all fell. All three played well and I think St. Joe’s proved worthy of its No. 1 seeding in the East when many so-called experts blasted the Hawks after the blowout loss to Xavier.

We also saw Connecticut establish itself as the team to beat with dominating performances against two SEC surprise teams ”” Vanderbilt and Alabama. With Ben Gordon bombing 3’s from outside and Emeka Okafor blocking shot after shot, the Huskies made easy work of the Southern boys.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants rates UConn a 6-5 favorite to win its second championship in the past six years under coach Jim Calhoun. Next is Duke at 9-5, which would probably be a surprise to Coach K if he paid attention to Las Vegas books. Chances are he doesn’t, though his players do.

Oklahoma State is third choice at 2-1, with Georgia Tech the outsider at 6-1 after opening at 20-1. No 100-1 shots here, though. All four teams are worthy. Two will advance to Monday’s championship game. All, but one, end the season with a loss.

Hopefully, we won’t.

Saturday, 12:05 p.m. PT

Georgia Tech (+5) vs Oklahoma St: Remember the very beginning of the season when Georgia Tech was beating up on everyone in the Big Apple NIT. Well, the Yellow Jackets maintained their excellence throughout the ACC campaign, including a victory at Duke. The game opened at four, but there’s obviously early support for the Cowboys.

And, there is good reason. San Antonio is not that far from Stillwater and you can bet your booty the Alamodome will be filled with Okie State fans. Eddie Sutton was the first coach to take four different schools to the Sweet 16 and has OSU at the brink of its greatest moment since the good ole days of Hank Iba.

The Cowboys are athletic, physical and persistent. This is a real tough assignment for Tech to basically win a road game. We see the Cowboys pulling away late and covering the number at the foul line. OKLAHOMA ST.

Saturday, 2:35 p.m. PT

UConn (+1½) vs Duke: The game opened Duke —1, but made a big move in just 48 hours. MGM Mirage has it at -2, so bet there if you like the Devils. As Virginia coach Pete Gillen says "Duke is Duke." Meaning, the Blue Devils are just that good. Never a dropoff in talent or desire with Coach K ballclubs.

However, Duke has met its match in UConn. The Huskies have Okefor who, if 100 percent healthy and free of foul trouble, controls the paint. Connecticut can run with Duke, shoot with Duke and compete with Duke. The Blue Devils do not have a dominant big man, and that’s ultimately the difference. UCONN.

As for Monday night, the wise money is on Connecticut to cut down the nets. But, it wouldn’t surprise us a bit if the Okies lasso the national championship. After all, Texans have a soft spot for Cowboys.

Tuesday in New York

Rutgers (+2) vs Iowa St: The game means more to Rutgers. They know the Garden. RUTGERS.

Oregon (+1½) vs Michigan: These Wolverines are hungrier. MICHIGAN.

Our pick in the finals: Michigan.

Oh, by the way, the women are also playing. We’ll just take UConn and give the points. Enough said.