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Monday, March 31, 2008

Chancellor deserves it

NEW ORLEANS - Four times he has been in this game. Four times he has lost it.

LSU women's basketball coach Van Chancellor, winner of four WNBA titles, will try for a fifth time to reach the Final Four tonight when the No. 2 seed Lady Tigers play No. 1 seed North Carolina. Four times, Chancellor took Ole Miss to this elite eight round. He lost by four to Western Kentucky in 1985 and by three to Texas in 1986. Both of those games were on the winning team's home court back before the women's tournament started playing its later rounds on neutral sites.

Chancellor could well lose a close game tonight. North Carolina is very good and patterns itself after the men's team - run up and down the floor and use a lot of players. LSU center Sylvia Fowles has shown a tendency to be average in big games. If that happens, LSU will be in trouble. North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell is playing for her third straight Final Four. She won the national championship for the Tar Heels in 1994 over Louisiana Tech.

Maybe this time, it's Chancellor's turn. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Chancellor has repeatedly said all he had to do this year was not mess it up. He inherited a team with five senior starters who have all been to the last three Final Fours. He knows he inherited a gold mine. He knows these are not his players. He knows they all signed under the Nick Saban regime.

Just kidding.

"This is not a burning, yearning deal with me," Chancellor said, but do not believe him. After all, he is a coach.

It is exactly a burning, yearning deal with him. Number one, Chancellor has never made it to the Final Four and is a better coach than many who have. Number two, he inherited a senior-laden team that went to three Final Fours - twice under interim coaches and once under a coach in her first full year. How could he not go?

North Carolina is better than the four previous teams LSU beat in the Elite Eight - Georgia in 2004, Duke in 2005, Stanford in 2006 and Connecticut in 2007.

"For me personally, if it happens, it would be great," Chancellor said.

But he is not made the players feel as if he has to have it.

"We've been in this position a few times before," Fowles said. "Just to hear him say we can go out there and have fun and play the game relieves a lot of pressure."

Fowles had a steely look in her eyes when asked about another possible scoring dryspell like her 0-for-7 to start the game Saturday against Oklahoma State.

"We haven't discussed that issue yet because I don't think it's going to be that bad," she said. "I won't have that problem."

That and the basketball gods could get answer Chancellor's burning yearning.


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