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MAY, DAVIS OFFER THROWBACK MATCHUP

North Carolina's Sean May loves his basketball history. He's carrying a tape of Indiana's 1976 championship game victory -- featuring his father, Scott May -- in his backpack in case any of his teammates want to see it this weekend. And in an era when three-point shooting dominates the game, May is thrilled to get a chance for a throwback matchup tonight.

When Carolina meets Michigan State in the second game of the Final Four in the Edward Jones Dome, the outcome might hinge on the 6-foot-9, 260-pound May against 6-11, 267 State center Paul Davis.

"I think we both have an 'old-school' type game," May said here Friday. "We're not really high-risers. We both kind of have a laid-back attitude. We just approach the game in probably the same type of way. . . . The game will be played through the post. So it will be kind of like a throwback situation."

"What May has are incredible hands. What Davis has is more size," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "It's a critical matchup on who can run the court the best because we're going to try to run on them and they're going to try to run on us. May gets phenomenal position (by the basket) if you let him get there early."

May has been one of the most dominant players in this year's NCAA Tournament. He's averaging 21.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and is shooting 67 percent from the field.

"I've seen him get better and better each year of his career," Davis said. "Right now he's playing as well as anyone in the country. It's going to be a tough task."

Davis is averaging 15 points and 10.8 boards during the tournament after a regular season when he was a lightning rod for criticism when the Spartans were struggling.

"He's playing so well right now," May said. "The hardest part is playing somebody who has been criticized. He got criticized all year for not being intense and not playing the way that people thought he should. Now he's doing that.

Izzo and Louisville coach Rick Pitino both have championship trophies. North Carolina's Roy Williams, of course, does not. So while Pitino and Izzo said they were savoring this trip and were more relaxed about things, Williams admitted he still feels the pressure of trying to win his first title.

"You guys have to write and and it's a story, so I understand that," Williams said. "But 15 years from now, if I'm still sitting up here answering questions, and one of the questions is asked, 'Well, Roy, you've never won one,' that still means we've won a lot of games, and I'm going to enjoy that part of it and the relationship with my players.

"There's no question. I've said it this way: I've got more desire in my little finger than any North Carolina person alive or dead, OK? But at the same time, you can only do so much. . . . And if we do happen to get lucky one year and win one, I'm not going to quit the next day. So it's not going to change my life either."

This is Williams' fifth trip to the Final Four and third in the last four seasons. It's his first time with Carolina after four visits with Kansas that included the loss to Syracuse in the championship game two years ago in New Orleans.

May acknowledged the North Carolina players understand Williams' quest for that elusive title.

"It's something I think about at night," May said. "Coach has been through a lot. I respect everything that he's done. Twenty years from now when he's getting ready to retire talking about the things he's done in his career, I want to be on that 2005 team that he thanks for finally getting him that first championship."

Louisville assistant coach Reggie Theus, the former NBA standout, is among the many observers impressed by the Cardinals' offensive ability. Said Theus: "I think we hit our first six shots (in the second round) against Georgia Tech. If that happens, we can beat the Los Angeles Lakers for that matter. Well, anybody can beat the Lakers these days."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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