After all the crying about unfair seedings and after all the upsets in the early rounds, the NCAA is down to its final four, and surprise - there probably isn't a team there that shouldn't be.
The national semifinals will be Saturday in St. Louis, with Arkansas (31-3), the West champion, playing Mid-east champion and No. 1 ranked Kentucky (28-2). The other semifinal matches Midwest winner Notre Dame (23-6), and East champion Duke (26-6).
The final will be Monday.
Both semifinals have at least one thing in common - they will match weightlifters against ballet dancers.
Arkansas and Duke are two of the nation's best finesse teams, relying on quickness, speed and pizazz to get the job done.
Kentucky and Notre Dame are big and strong and try to beat the opposition's brains out under the basket. Neither does anything fancy.They play hard-nosed, blue-collar type basketball.
"I'd much rather play Kentucky than Michigan State because some types of teams you can just play better against than others," said Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton. "We're quicker than Kentucky and we usually do quite well when we are in that situation."
Two of Sutton's players agreed.
"We're going to have to run on Kentucky," said guard Ron Brewer. "We should beat them on transitions. I'm not too worried because we usually play good against big teams, and after having beaten UCLA, we feel we can beat anyone."
"We are not a very physical team and rely a lot on quickness," added Arkansa Sidney Moncrief, "and I feel quickness is what can beat Kentucky. If we can control the defensive board, then I know we can beat them."
The Razorbacks have won more games than any of the survivers, and they played in probably the toughest regional with powerhouses UCLA, Kansas, New Mexico, San Francisco and North Carolina and two supposed weak sisters Weber State and Cal-State Fullerton.
Because of the pairings and the emergence of Fullerton, which upset New Mexico and San Gracisco, UCLA was the only power Arkansas had to play. The Razorbacks beat the Bruins in the West Semifinal, 74-70. They squeaked past Fullerton, 61-58, in the final.
Kentucky's road to the final was made easier when Miami of Ohio upset defending champion Marquette in a first-round Mid-East game.
The Wildcasts have struggled at times in the tournament, especially against Florida State in the first round and Michigan State in the final. They had to come from behind to win both.
Arkansas is similar to Florida State and Michigan State in its quickness, but the Razorbacks are better shooters. In fact, Arkansas led the nation in field-goal percentage for the second straight reason.
Duke was in the easiest regional, and it would have been very embarassing to the Atlantic Cost Conference if the Blue Devils hadn't make it to St. Louis.
Notre Dame was the only one of the four to romp through its regional.
The Irish have more depth than Kentucky, Arkansas or Duke and used it to beat Houston by 23 points, Utah by 13 and DePaul by 20.
"Duke likes to fast break, so we'll just have to slow them down by pounding the boards and beating them inside," said Notre Dame freshman star Kelly Tripucka.
If it comes down to a Duke-Arkansas Final, It will be a wide-open affair of one-on-one moves and slam dunks. If it is a Kentucky-Notre Dame final, it will be more like the St. Valentine's Day massacre with bodies all over the place.
The scouting reports:
KENTUCKY - The Wildcats should be the favorite because they are big, strong and the most experienced of the four teams.
Their thing is muscle and they get it from 6-foot-10 Mike Phillips, 6-foot-10 Rich Robey and 6-foot-5 James Lee. What finesse Kentucky has, comes from leading scorer Jack Givens. The leadership and direction are supplied by sophomore guard Kyle Macy.
The Wildcats are not very quick, and as a result, they do not pass well and often are vulnerable to full-court pressure.
NOTRE DAME - With 6-foot-11 Bill Laimbeer, 6-foot-10 Dave Battom, 6-foot-8 Bruce Flowers and the 6-foot-7 Tripucka, the Irish are probably just as strong inside as Kentucky and have better guards in Duck Williams and Rich Branning.
Notre Dame's attack is like tha of a boxer who wears down his opponents with body punches in the early rounds and then goes for the kill.
The Irish have profited from a grueling regular-season schedule in which they played nine of the original 32 teams in the tournament.They beat five of them.
ARKANSAS - No other team has three players any better than the Razorbacks' Brewer. Moncrief and Marvin Delph. All are 6-foot-4, good shooters, good jumpers and unselfish.
Moncrief, a guard, led the team in rebounding and probably will to the most exciting player in St. Louis.
Delph is one of the game' great outside shooters. Brewer is a cool, low-profile type who is at his best when the game is on the line.
Though they are exciting and colorful, the Razorbacks are not a run-and-gun outfit, but a highly organized close-knit team.
DUKE - The Blue Devils were supposed to be a year away with two freshman starting at forward. But one of them, Gene Banks, can dunk with Moncrief. In Jim Spanarkel, Duke has the outside shooting. Mike Gminski, a 6-11 center, is as good as any final-four center.
Duke is limited defensively, however, because it is strictly a zone team. Arkansas, Kentucky and Notre Dame basically play man-to-man defenses and go to a zone to confuse the opposition, protect a lead or to protect people who are in foul trouble.