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Two Williamses looking for a first

If everything worked out according to the brackets designed by the NCAA selection committee, there would be four top-seeded teams headed to this weekend's Final Four.

In some regions it does, which is why Kansas and Maryland meet in one national semifinal Saturday at Atlanta.

In others it doesn't, which is why Oklahoma and Indiana play in the other.

No. 1-seeded Kansas and Maryland completed the Final Four on Sunday. The Jayhawks eliminated second-seeded Oregon 104-86 to win the Midwest Region, and the Terrapins held off No. 2 Connecticut 90-82 in the East.

No. 5 Indiana won the South on Saturday, topping Kent State 81-69, and No. 2 Oklahoma captured the West with a 81-75 victory over No. 12 Missouri.

The intrigue in the matchup of No. 1s begins with the coaches, both named Williams, both trying to win a first national championship.

Maryland's Gary Williams took the Terps to the Final Four a year ago before losing in the semifinals against Duke, which won the championship.

Roy Williams has taken Kansas to two Final Fours, losing to eventual champion North Carolina in the 1993 semifinals and to Duke in the 1991 championship game.

Both have seasoned, focused teams.

Kansas has the highest scoring team in the country and complements that with a strong inside game. Typical was the rout of overmatched Oregon, which the Jayhawks outrebounded 63-34.

"We knew the way to beat them was to beat them on the boards and get extra shots," Drew Gooden said. "I think it was contagious."

Maryland had all it could handle from Connecticut. But in the end, the Terps used the senior savvy of Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon and a key shot by Steve Blake to prevail.

"Any experience you have in difficult situations helps you there," Gary Williams said. "I've seen a lot of games to get to the Final Four. I can't believe there's been a more competitive one.

"As you get older, there are great games, ones you'll always remember. I'll always remember this one."

Indiana made sure the Final Four would have a new look when it defeated Duke in a semifinal. That made the matchup against Kent State almost anticlimactic, but coach Mike Davis' team did not let down.

The victory was costly. Tom Coverdale turned his left ankle and was in a wheelchair for the net-cutting ceremony. His availability this weekend is questionable.

"It is hard to tell right now how I will feel," Coverdale said. "They are doing everything they can, and so am I, to make sure I play" against Oklahoma.

For Davis, in his second season succeeding Bob Knight, the trip to the Final Four is vindication.

He was hired amid much criticism, an assistant thrust into a high-profile head-coaching job in the high-pressure Big Ten. But the players supported him, and after a 7-5 start the team jelled at the most important time.

Oklahoma used the pinpoint shooting of Hollis Price and Ebi Ere to defeat Missouri and extend the nation's longest winning streak to 12 games.

"We earned our way this far, but once we get down to Atlanta, it's a totally different thing," said Aaron McGhee, whose 3-pointer with 2:14 to play was a dagger for the Sooners. "I think this team will be single-minded on its goal."

It was an emotional victory for Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson, whose father had brain surgery last week.

"You can never imagine the exact way you'll achieve a dream like this, but I'm pretty happy with the way it happened," Sampson said. "Our kids have come to play. If we play well, we'll have a chance to win."

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