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CLEVELAND -- You know those promos that ESPN runs that end with North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell screaming "Are you ready? Are you ready?" That's something she's done before every game since she became the Tar Heels' coach in 1986. "She does stuff like that all the time to keep us loose and get us to smile," senior point guard Ivory Latta said. &q…

CLEVELAND -- Welcome to the Women's Final Four, which graces the state of Ohio for only the second time. The Women's Final Four (or WFF for short) has evolved from the niche sport it once was into a significant national event. While women's basketball may not captivate the nation's attention to the extent that the men's game does (how many of you have women's office pools…

ATLANTA -- Skimming the Ohio State postseason media guide an hour before the first national semifinal, I was stunned to find that the Buckeyes had not appeared in the Final Four since 1968, when they lost to North Carolina in the semis. I could have sworn I covered Ohio State in the 1999 Final Four. In fact, I remembered being in the regional final in Knoxville, Tenn. when…

ATLANTA -- I'm going with Georgetown and Florida. I've liked the Hoyas ever since I first saw them live in the Big East Tournament. The offense is well-oiled, Roy Hibbert can dominate and Jeff Green is a future pro. Throw in a terrific coaching job by John Thompson III and this team is headed to Monday night for the first time since 1985. Ohio State needs to hit some outs…

ATLANTA -- It's about two hours before tipoff here in the Georgia Dome and the bright lights inside the stadium have just been fired up. The media work area is stationed on what would be one end zone of the football field while the court goes across the other end zone -- the one James Washington ran into with his game-changing fumble return in Super Bowl XXVIII (apologies …

ATLANTA -- I can feel Harrington's pain. I was in a group of about 30 reporters who had Roy Hibbert pinned to a wall outside the Georgetown locker room, straining to get close enough to hear. I guess it would make too much sense to put Hibbert and Oden on the interview stand, considering that the center matchup was the most anticipated in more than 20 years. Of course, t…

ATLANTA -- A trip around open practice day in the Georgia Dome: ---Florida's Joakim Noah regaled the media with a terrific Dick Vitale impersonation while complaining how the ESPN talking head prematurely wrote the Gators off during their February slump. "We've been under such a microscope and people have been so quick to judge us," Noah said. "I hear …

ATLANTA -- UCLA coach Ben Howland has been an outspoken critic of the rule requiring players to spend one year in college basketball before going to the NBA. But Howland said Friday he would be in favor of forcing players into a longer commitment, as is done in college baseball. "What I like is the idea that if you do elect to go to college, then it should be at leas…

  ATLANTA -- Just emerged from what has to be the most ridiculous locker-room media scrum I have ever seen at a Final Four. Ohio State opted NOT to put Greg Oden on the podium during its assigned interview time when, of course, he's the Buckeye everyone wanted to talk to. So Oden sat on a stool in front of his corner locker for 30 minutes patiently answering q…

       St. Bonaventure most certainly can stay within its budget and still find a competent basketball coach if new AD Steve Watson is willing to beat the bushes and use the contacts he presumably brought to the job.        UB was in a worse quandary when it fired head coach Tim Cohane in December of 1999. The season had commenced. …

ATLANTA -- Greetings from the Final Four, where St. Bonaventure was supposed to be a name far off folks' minds. But that changed late Thursday night when Albany coach Will Brown turned down the Bonnies' offer to replace Anthony Solomon as coach. The buzz around the watering holes and hotel lobbies here: Does anybody want this job? Bona AD Steve Watson is expected here to…

ATLANTA -- Today is open practice day at the Final Four and it's one of the neatest events you see anywhere all year. There will probably be around 30,000 people -- 30,000! -- in the Georgia Dome just to watch the four teams go through a mild, 50-minute workout that usually turns into not much more than dunk contests. The atmosphere is unique. There are no tickets and adm…

Those who are looking for a feel-good story about former Georgetown guard Fred Brown are in for a surprise. Brown, the man whose ill-fated pass to North Carolina's James Worthy sealed Georgetown's fate in the 1982 national championship, told Mike Wise of the Washington Post that he doesn't support the Hoyas' program and probably won't watch his alma mater in the Final Four…

Jeff Ruland is officially done at Iona as the school has bought out the final two years of his contract. A fractious relationship with some school officials and boosters as well as last year's 2-28 disaster were too much for the former Iona All-America and NBA all-star to overcome, even though he led his alma mater to three NCAA Tournaments. One candidate the Gaels might …

Xavier is building the powerhouse the rest of the Atlantic 10 can only dream of. If the Musketeers could have made one more free throw, defended one three-point shot -- or got the intentional foul call on Greg Oden they deserved to get -- they might be in Atlanta this weekend instead of Ohio State. Last week, Xavier signed coach Sean Miller to a long-term extension that s…