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ARKANSAS LOOKS TO JOIN ELITE GROUP OF REPEAT WINNERS

One of the last two national champions will have a chance to be the next national champion.

Arkansas, looking to become the second team to repeat since the days of the UCLA dynasty, will meet North Carolina, the team that failed to do that last season, in the second of Saturday's Final Four games.Arkansas' attempt join Duke in 1991 and 1992 as a recent repeater is one of the success stories of the NCAA tournament. Only Duke and UNLV the season before even reached the Final Four as defending champion. North Carolina was gone in the second round the year after winning it all.

"You have to congratulate them for getting back to this level," North Carolina coach Dean Smith said Friday. "It's remarkable they have done what they have done."

The Razorbacks (31-6) had all five starters back this season, the first defending champion to do that since UCLA in 1967. That made a rough task nearly impossible.

"The expectations were so high and so unreasonable," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "Not only were we supposed to be No. 1, we were supposed to go undefeated and also win every game by 20 points."

The expectations for both are now focused on reaching the championship game. One very recent champion goes home, the other goes on to play the winner of the UCLA-Oklahoma State game on Monday night.

The Tar Heels (28-5) come in having won their four tournament games by an average of 13.7 points, the last a 74-61 victory over Kentucky in the Southeast Regional championship game.

Arkansas had a far different road, winning its four games by a total of 15 points, two in overtime and the last 68-61 over Virginia to win the Midwest Regional.

"After a game's over with I don't concern myself with that," Richardson said of the close games. "I don't worry about them when they're over. At 12 midnight forget what happened yesterday.

"It's a new day, a new game against new people. Playing those close games builds character and when you do win one you think you might not have had a chance to win with a few minutes left, it's the greatest feeling in the world."

Last year's title game wasn't decided until the final minute, when Scotty Thurman's 3-pointer gave the Razorbacks the lead for good as they beat Duke 76-72.

North Carolina's championship game two years ago wasn't decided until the final seconds, when Michigan's Chris Webber called a timeout the Wolverines didn't have and the Tar Heels went on to a 77-71 victory.

The game also will match the last two Final Four MVPs, Donald Williams of North Carolina and the Razorbacks' Corliss Williamson.