No. 1 seed Arizona (29-4) vs. No. 4 Maryland (21-10)

March 19, 1998|By Paul McMullen

What: West Regional semifinals

Where: Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, Calif.

When: Tonight, approximately 10: 25

TV: Chs. 13, 9

The line: Arizona by 8

How they got here: The defending champion Wildcats won the Pac-10 Conference, and handled No. 16 Nicholls State, 99-60, and No. 9 Illinois State, 82-49, in Sacramento, Calif., last week. Maryland was an at-large selection out of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and beat No. 13 Utah State, 82-68, and No. 5 Illinois, 67-61, at the same site.

HTC Conference records: The Wildcats went 17-1 to win the Pac-10. The Terps were 10-6 in the ACC, finishing third.

Ranking: Arizona was No. 4 and Maryland No. 20 in the AP poll last week.

NCAA tournament record: In its 17th appearance, Arizona is 29-15 in the tournament. The defending champions have been in two of the past four Final Fours. In its 15th appearance, Maryland is 19-14. The Terps have twice won at this step, but lost regional finals in 1973 and '75.

Coaches: Lute Olson is 370-112 in 15 seasons at Arizona, 562-204 in 25 seasons overall. Gary Williams is 164-111 in nine seasons at Maryland, 371-239 in 20 seasons overall.


Perimeter: In Mike Bibby, Arizona has the nation's most complete point guard, a graceful athlete who can a start a play or finish one, and he would appear to have a decisive edge over Terrell Stokes, who has played well the last month but had trouble with lesser talents. Shooting guard Miles Simon is another first-team All-American, and while Sarunas Jasikevicius can match his size and strength, he doesn't possess his explosive first step. At the small forward/third guard spot, Laron Profit will have to expend a great deal of energy slowing Michael Dickerson. Too much, and he could continue his postseason struggles on offense.

Inside: Power forward Rodney Elliott has been Maryland's most consistent performer over the last month, and his mid-range jumper will be tested by Bennett Davison, a superb defender who's not an offensive threat. At center, A. J. Bramlett has shown you don't have to be thick to be strong, and Obinna Ekezie has to run the floor like he never has before. If Ekezie is double-teamed by Arizona like he was by Illinois, he must look for open shooters.

Bench: Both teams can go small, but whereas Jason Terry gives Arizona one more slashing threat on the perimeter, Matt Kovarik sometimes won't even take an open layup for Maryland. Freshmen Mike Mardesich and Terence Morris saw their minutes drop in a second-round win over Illinois, while Arizona's Donnell Harris and Eugene Edgerson help out with the dirty work, a la Davison and Bramlett.

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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