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UCLA'S HARRICK MORE THAN CONFIDENT

UCLA's Jim Harrick sounded almost too confident, almost cocksure.

He wasn't cautiously optimistic like Nolan Richardson of defending champion Arkansas, Dean Smith of North Carolina and Eddie Sutton of Oklahoma State. Each expressed confidence, but with the proper amount of doubt, too.

"I feel good," Harrick said. "If you didn't think that, you probably shouldn't come."

As NCAA Final Fours go, Harrick is a rookie. When the top-ranked Bruins (29-2) play Oklahoma State (27-9) in the NCAA Tournament semifinals in the Kingdome on Saturday, it'll be Harrick's first game as a coach in the Final Four.

He'll be giving away a lot of big-game coaching experience to the likes of Richardson, Smith and Sutton, who have coached in Final Fours before. Smith has coached Final Four teams in four decades.

"That sounds old," Smith said with a chuckle.

And wise.

Smith said all the right things about Saturday's other semifinal, between North Carolina (28-5) and Arkansas (31-6).

"I think it should be an exciting game if we can handle their excellent pressure defense," Smith said. "But this could be our last game."

Harrick has reason to be confident. His Bruins have won 17 games in a row, including a 102-96 victory over Connecticut in last Saturday's West Regional final at Oakland, Calif.

"We have made a great run through our conference, which is a very, very good confidence," Harrick said. "We beat Kentucky and Louisville and Notre Dame and North Carolina State and Duke. We've gone out and played anybody we could possibly schedule."

UCLA last won a national title 20 years ago in San Diego. It was the last of John Wooden's 10 in a dizzying 12-year run.

Harrick thought UCLA could make it to the Final Four this season. When the Bruins were in Seattle to play Washington in a Pac-10 game Feb. 9, he took his players to the Kingdome to show them where they could be playing in April if they worked hard enough.

"We did it for a special reason," he said. "We wanted to put it in their minds that it was a place we wanted to return to."

UCLA is favored by four points to beat "Big Country," Oklahoma State's 7-foot, 300-pound center Bryant Reeves, and Sutton likes the odds. Back in the Final Four with Oklahoma State after his coaching career appeared over at Kentucky, Sutton enjoys being the underdog.

The Cowboys got to Seattle with a 68-54 victory over Massachusetts in the East Regional final, holding UMass to a season-low 28 percent shooting.

"We're going to be wearing black uniforms so I guess we'll be the underdogs," Sutton said. "I think we have the toughest challenge that we've had all season. I really believe UCLA deserves the No. 1 ranking in the country."

Smith drew no solace from North Carolina being favored by two over Arkansas.

"This year, there has to be at least 21 games that were decided with five minutes to play," he said. "We could have lost them."

Georgia hires Tubby Smith

ATHENS, Ga. -- Tubby Smith, who coached Tulsa to the NCAA Sweet 16 the past two seasons, got the basketball coaching job at Georgia and became the school's first black head coach.

Smith, 43, succeeds Hugh Durham, fired March 19 after 17 seasons. Smith agreed to a six-year contract at $115,000 a year. Smith's son, Orlando Jr., a point guard, will be a freshman at Georgia in the fall.

Report has Alford changing jobs

INDIANAPOLIS -- Steve Alford, the sharp-shooting guard who led Indiana to the 1987 NCAA title, will be named coach at Southwest Missouri, according to a published report.

Alford, who has coached at Manchester College the last four years, is to be named to the position today, the Indianapolis Star reported in today's editions.

Alford wouldn't discuss the move on Wednesday night.

"They won't let me," he told the Star from his Warsaw, Ind., home. "I'll be (in Springfield) at noon and then I'm flying to Seattle (for the Final Four). Call me there."

Manchester lost to Wisconsin-Platteville in the NCAA Division III championship game at Buffalo State.

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