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Monday, January 17, 2005; Page D02

ESPN College Hoops 2K5 vs. Electronic Arts' March Madness 2005

With college basketball's top two video games trying to claim supremacy on the virtual court, there's only one way to settle the matter: a game of one-on-one.

Gameplay: Edge to College Hoops 2K5 because it's smoother.

Players don't move like they're on rails, as a player's momentum causes him to take at least one step in order to change direction. It also has a nifty juke system, which allows you to perform spin moves and crossover dribbles fluidly. March Madness features a "floor general" system that enables you to call one of six set plays as you bring the ball upcourt. And when a shot is missed your player has three options: rebound, go for the tap-in, or the more satisfying dunk. However, the players' speed is flawed.

Defenses can recover too easily when the ball is stolen, which restricts fast breaks, and it's common for a center to run down a guard and block his shot from behind.

Off the Court: Edge to March Madness 2005.

You have more control of your team, including disciplining your players. If a rule is broken, you must hand down a punishment -- or the NCAA might put you on probation and you might get kicked out of your conference. You must be wary about how much time you spend recruiting because it takes away time you have with your team, which affects its discipline off the court. ESPN 2K5 counters with a system that allows you, as a coach, to advance your career by parlaying a good season at a low-level Division I-A school into a job offer from a major university. Coaches get fired rather frequently and, if you aren't as successful as you'd like, you can always fire an assistant coach with the push of a button.

Intangibles: Both games are available for PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and offer online play, but 2K5 is $19.99, which is significantly less than March Madness ($29.99-$39.99).

And the Winner Is: ESPN College Hoops 2K5. Whether it's watching your team's replays on the game's version of ESPNews or spot-on commentary by Mike Patrick and Jay Bilas, 2K5 feels a little more like the real thing.

-- Jon Gallo

© 2005 The Washington Post Company