Illinois coach Lou Henson uses his isn't-it-great-just-to-be-here attitude. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim relies on sarcasm.
Regardless of the approach, neither coach seems obsessed about never having won an NCAA title while fielding talented teams year-in and year-out."The question is, `Do I have anything to prove?' The answer is, `No," said Henson, whose third-ranked Illini plays Boeheim's seventh-ranked Orangemen in the NCAA Midwest Regional final Sunday at the Metrodome.
"If we win the ball game, great. But if we lose, I don't want (Illinois players) to hang their heads, to dwell on whether they win or lose.
"I don't think the players have anything to prove. And, as a coaching staff, I don't think we have anything to prove, either."
If Illinois, 30-4, can win, it would meet No. 10 Michigan next Saturday in Seattle, the Illini's first Final Four appearance since 1952. Only once in Henson's 15 years has Illinois reached a regional final, losing to Kentucky in 1984. The last three years, the Illini made quick exits from the tournament.
Syracuse, 30-7, has had only slightly more postseason success under Boeheim, getting to the Final Four just once in his 13 seasons. That was in 1987, when the Orangemen lost 74-73 to Indiana in the title game.
Unlike Henson, who has been congenial - and even affable - when questioned by the media about his record, Boeheim has been defensive.
After Friday's 83-80 victory over Missouri in the regional semifinals, he was asked about Syracuse's inability to win a title and snapped: "Some questions don't deserve an answer. That's one."
At Saturday's news conference, he said coaches are generally unfairly criticized.
"Good things happen because of players, bad things happen because of coaches," Boeheim said. Later, when asked about Syracuse's problems on the free-throw line, he said: "It must be my coaching. It can't be anything else. It's so consistently bad."
Boeheim and Henson talked quite a bit about the merits of big basketball players.
Henson has spent much of the tournament lamenting his team's lack of size. The Illini's tallest regular is spindly 6-foot-8 forward Marcus Liberty and they may be handicapped further if 6-7 Lowell Hamilton and 6-6 Kenny Battle can't play because of injuries.
Hamilton hurt his ankle early in Friday's 83-69 victory over Louisville and didn't practice Saturday. Battle played sparingly Friday after twisting his knee in practice Thursday, when he slipped on a Metrodome floor that was wet because of a leaky roof.
"On Hamilton, we don't know. We're treating him," Henson said. "On Battle, we're hoping he'll be better but I know he's not going to be at full strength. We have two players who are our primary inside defenders who both might be out. It really hurts us. Syracuse is tough inside.
"Syracuse has a great fit because they're big. (Derrick) Coleman is a 6-9 guy who can rebound with any player in the country. And they have Owens (6-9 freshman Billy Owens).
"I think we have a good fit, too. We'd just like to have a little more size. Maybe we can do it without it. These guys (his players) think they can." Boeheim thinks that, with all their players ranging between 6-4 and 6-7, the Illini have as much overall team size as anybody.
"Illinois is special," he said. "They've got guys who can play anywhere. Individual size doesn't matter as much. You can end up with a big size advantage in some places."
One of those places is at guard, where Syracuse's All-American playmaker, 6-0 Sherman Douglas, will have to contend with either 6-6 Steve Bardo or 6-4 Kendall Gill.
"I don't think size matters," said Douglas, who had 27 points and seven assists Friday. "They don't have enough size? They've won 30 games without size. No, I don't feel for them."
About the injuries to Hamilton and Battle, Boeheim said: "They beat Louisville pretty easily with all those injuries. I think they've proven they can play without those guys. Sometimes guys who are supposed to be injured hurt (opponents) the most."