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1 THING'S SURE: RAZORBACKS ARE UNPREDICTABLE

They throw up wild 3-pointers and their defense is pure mayhem.

They're cocky. They're lucky. They're the Arkansas Razorbacks.Their basketball is no work of art. It just works.

"You can watch all the tape you want and if you can figure out what they're doing, you're Houdini," UCLA coach Jim Harrick said, "because I can't figure out what they're doing. They trap and press you and you never know when it's coming."

When he heard what Harrick said, Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson smiled.

"That's the greatest compliment," he said.

Forget about preparing to play the Razorbacks. The defense defies strategy. How can you defend a team when its coach doesn't even know what defense is about to be used. The players make that decision and there's no telling what they will decide, Richardson said.

"Predictability is something this basketball team and old Nolan will never want to be," he said. "I get a kick out of when they say, `You know, they gamble a lot.' We do. `They give you a lot of good shots.' We do. But all those good looks ain't good, and sometimes when we gamble, we win."

The Razorbacks are 63-8 in the last two seasons and have made their chaotic way to the brink of a second straight national title.

Ironically, Richardson's inspiration came from John Wooden's UCLA teams that employed a tough full-court press to take opponents out of their offense.

"I started thinking in terms of what would happen if we could develop a press that you couldn't work on and the only way you could do that was to teach decision-making and opportunity," he said. "From the time I hit the junior-college level until now, I've just worked and worked at it and we've gotten better and better."

When recruits arrive at Arkansas, they're thrust into defense-dominated practices that exceeded their worst basketball nightmares.

"I was blowin' out tennis shoes because I'd never played defense like that in my life," Corliss Williamson said. "When you talk about `40 minutes of hell,' practices are worse than the games. It was a big shock for me. I think that's why I broke my foot. I'd never played that hard before."

To play at that pace, Richardson uses 10 players regularly.

The idea is to wear the opponent down, something that Richardson believes happened to North Carolina in Arkansas' 75-68 victory over the Tar Heels Saturday.

Richardson likes to quote Vince Lombardi's famous line, "Fatigue will make cowards of us all."

Other teams get so flustered that they rush their shots, even when they are open. North Carolina was 6-for-24 in the second half.

Guards Clint McDaniel and Corey Beck decide when to intensify the pressure.

"We just try to cause a lot of havoc," McDaniel said.

They can tell when it's working.

"Just to see the expression on their face when we're coming after them, it's fun," McDaniel said.

In this kind of game, the offense becomes almost incidental. Harrick pointed out that Arkansas has taken 889 3-pointers. The Razorbacks were 12-for-34 on 3-pointers against North Carolina.

But even Richardson must take control once in awhile. He did it at halftime Saturday, when the players weren't trying hard enough to get the ball inside to Williamson.

"I let my kids make decisions more on their own, and usually they're right," Richardson said. "Every now and then I say, look, `This is an equal opportunity job. I don't care who scores. But we've got to know where the horse is. He'll either deliver it or kick it back out to you."'

The players got the message. Williamson score 19 of his 21 points in the second half and the Hogs came from behind to win.

It's been that kind of season. The story is familiar by now: A season-opening blowout at Massachusetts that knocked the Razorbacks from No. 1 and three NCAA tournament games in which Arkansas looked to be a sure loser but somehow managed to win.

That kind of success breeds big-time confidence.

"We could be down by probably six points with two seconds to go on the clock and the way our luck goes, the other team will get three technical fouls and we will probably win," Williamson said. "So we feel confident that things will eventually work out for us."