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Quest for Glory: Orangemen, Jayhawks Battle for Top Spot

DATE & TIME: Monday, April 7th, 9:18 p.m. (et).


Site: Louisiana Superdome (54,500) -- New Orleans, Louisiana.

Television: CBS.

Announcers: Jim Nantz, Billy Packer, Lesley Visser, Armen Keteyian.

NCAA Tournament Record: Syracuse 45-28. Kansas 70-31.

Series Record: Kansas leads, 2-1.

GAME NOTES: Two legendary coaches lead their respective teams onto the floor at the Louisiana Superdome this evening, with hopes of finally adding a national championship to their distinguished careers, as Roy Williams and his Kansas Jayhawks battle Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orangemen in the 2003 NCAA Championship Game. The Jayhawks, who advanced to the Final Four out of the West Region, are trying to win their third national title in school history (1952, 1988), but first under Roy Williams. The Jayhawk coach is now 2-3 all-time in Final Four games, having last brought his team to the national title tilt back in 1991, losing to Duke, 72-65. Kansas reached its second straight Final Four this year with wins over Utah State (64-61), Arizona State (108-76), Duke (69-65) and finally top-seeded Arizona (78-75). The Jayhawks then proceeded to systematically destroy the Marquette Golden Eagles in the Semifinals on Saturday, 94-61 (fourth most lopsided decision in Final Four history). Only one top-seed made it to the Final Four, but the Orangemen made sure that it wasn't for long, as Syracuse knocked off Texas in the other Semifinal matchup on Saturday, 95-84. Winners now of five straight and 13 of their last 14 games overall, the East Region's third-seed navigated the region with victories over Manhattan (76-65), Oklahoma State (68-56), Auburn (79-78) and top-seed Oklahoma (63-47), earning Syracuse its fourth trip to the Final Four in school history. Jim Boeheim, who recently earned his 650th career victory with the win over Auburn, brings his third team to the national semifinals, with both prior squads moving on to the championship game (1987 and 1996). Boeheim has 37 NCAA Tournament victories to his credit to rank eighth all-time in tourney wins, but is still in search of that elusive national title. These two teams have met on just three previous occasions, with Kansas holding a slim 2-1 edge. That advantage was gained with an 87-58 rout in the 2001 NCAA Tournament's second-round.

The dream season for Syracuse and freshman phenom Carmelo Anthony continued over the weekend, as the young superstar led the way to the Promised Land, with a stellar performance against Texas. The National Freshman of the Year, Anthony saved his best for last, as he scored a career-high 33 points, on 12- of-19 shooting, while adding 14 rebounds, lifting his team to an 11-point shootout victory against the Longhorns. There was plenty of scoring help, as Syracuse shot a sizzling 57.1 percent from the floor, including 53.8 percent from three-point range (7-of-13). Three others joined Anthony in double figure scoring in the game, with fellow freshman Gerry McNamara pouring in 19 points from the perimeter, while sophomore forward Hakim Warrick added 18 points and seven boards inside. Even the bench provided support, with reserve sophomore swingman Josh Pace chipping in 12 points in 20 minutes of action. Although this very well could be Anthony's last game in a Syracuse uniform, he has certainly made his mark with the team in his debut season. One of the best players in the entire nation, Anthony has managed to average a double-double at 22.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per outing. Warrick adds to Syracuse's advantage in the frontcourt with a near double-double of his own (15.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game), while McNamara (13.2 ppg) and fellow guard Kueth Duany (11.0 ppg) balance things out in the backcourt.

The Golden Eagles were the sentimental pick going into the Final Four, but Kansas squashed any hopes of a Marquette victory, by jumping all over the Golden Eagles, taking all the fight out of them early on. With an insurmountable 29-point lead at halftime, Kansas had to do little more than show up after the break, to move on to the championship game. Kansas shot a mind-boggling 60 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes (24-of-40), while ending the half with a 59-30 lead. The team would cool off after the break a bit, shooting just .452 the rest of the way, but the damage had already been done. As has been the case for much of the season, the Jayhawks got a balanced scoring effort, as five players notched double figures in the win. Guard Keith Langford led the way with 23 points, on 11-of-14 shooting from the floor. Fellow guards Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Miles poured in 18 points apiece, while All-American forward Nick Collison provided the low post muscle, with a double-double of 12 points and 15 rebounds. Michael Lee would provide further scoring off the bench, adding 13 points in 22 minutes of work, including a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. It has been a lot of the same this season, for a team that nets nearly 83 points per game (82.8). Collison has been the leader down low, as he paces the team in both scoring (18.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.7 rpg). Also an All-American, Hinrich is not far behind in the scoring column and is a steady influence in the backcourt with 17.4 ppg. Langford provides a third explosive scorer for Kansas at 15.8 ppg, while Miles can also score (9.1 ppg), but first looks to make the perfect pass (237 assists on the year, 6.4 apg).

This will certainly be a high scoring affair. Syracuse will rely once more on Anthony to lead the way. Not many teams have been able to stop him, and Kansas probably won't either. However, the Jayhawks are one of the few teams in the nation that don't have to, as they have the kind of scoring depth to not only outlast the Orangemen, but perhaps turn this thing into a lopsided affair. Anthony and company will probably not allow that to happen. Syracuse can definitely pull off the win, but Kansas' depth could be the deciding factor in this one.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas 84, Syracuse 79

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