Kentucky (33-4) vs. Stanford (30-4)

March 28, 1998|By Don Markus Rosters

What: NCAA semifinal

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio

When: 5: 42 p.m. today

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WBAL (1090 AM)

Line: Kentucky by 8 1/2

How they got here: Kentucky finished the regular season with a 26-4 record and won the Southeastern Conference tournament, earning an automatic bid. As the No. 2 seed in the South Regional, the Wildcats defeated South Carolina State, 82-67; Saint Louis, 88-61; UCLA, 94-68, and Duke, 86-84. Stanford finished the regular season with a 26-4 record. Since the Pac-10 doesn't have a postseason tournament, the Cardinal earned one of 34 at-large bids and was a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional. Stanford defeated the College of Charleston, 67-57; Western Michigan, 83-65; Purdue, 67-59 and Rhode Island, 79-77.

Ranking: Kentucky was No. 5 in the final regular-season poll, Stanford was No. 10.

Coaches: Tubby Smith is 157-66 in seven years overall, 33-4 in his first year at Kentucky. Smith coached four years at Tulsa, where his teams were 79-43 and twice made the NCAA tournament, going to the Sweet 16 each year. He also coached two years at Georgia, where his teams were 45-19, going to the NCAA tournament both years and making the Sweet 16 in 1996. Mike Montgomery is 389-208 in 20 years overall, 235-131 in 12 years at Montana. At Stanford, Montgomery's teams have gone to the NCAA tournament six times, advancing to the Sweet 16 last year.

Key matchups:

Perimeter: The matchup at point guard between Kentucky's Wayne Turner and Arthur Lee could be the biggest one of the game, given the Wildcats' penchant for playing a transition game and the Cardinal's half-court style.

Inside: The battle between centers Nazr Mohammed and Jamaal Magloire of Kentucky and Tim Young of Stanford could also be important, particularly if the referees let Young and forward Mark Madsen play a physical game.

Bench: Forward Heshimu Evans has been the most effective player off Kentucky's bench, and his physical presence could make him even more vital to the Wildcats. With Stanford's Kris Weems in a shooting slump, David Moseley and Ryan Mendez might be needed to give the Cardinal an outside threat. The condition of Stanford starting forward Peter Sauer's knee could make Montgomery play a three-guard lineup with Moseley, Lee and Weems.

Low point of the season: For Kentucky, it was a 79-74 loss at home to Louisville on Dec. 27. Though it was one of three defeats the Wildcats suffered at home, it was the one their fans won't forget. Even if Kentucky wins the national championship. For Stanford, it was a 90-87 loss at home to Arizona State on Jan. 31. With its other losses coming against Arizona (twice) and at Connecticut, it was the Cardinal's only defeat to an unranked team.

What Kentucky has to do to win: The Wildcats have to take advantage of their overall speed and depthand beat the bigger, slower Cardinal players downcourt for easy transition baskets. Though they wound up winning a mostly half-court game against Duke by exposing one matchup -- Turner against Steve Wojciechowski -- they won't be able to do the same thing against Stanford and Lee.

What Stanford has to do to win: The Cardinal might have been the most fortunate team to survive its regional final, but it can't count on Kentucky's blowing the game down the stretch the way Rhode Island did. Stanford must find a way to get Weems back in the offensive flow, and it will also need the officials to let the teams play physically for Young to stay in the game.

Bottom line: This is Kentucky's third straight trip to the Final Four, and Stanford's first since 1942. Experience usually wins in this situation, not to mention talent.

Pub Date: 3/28/98

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