Midwest Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 23, 2001

Midwest Regional

Tonight's semifinals

Site: Alamodome, San Antonio.

No. 2 Arizona (25-7) vs. No. 3 Mississippi (27-7)

Time: 7:55

Conference records: Arizona went 15-3 and tied Stanford for the Pac-10 title. Mississippi was 11-5 and finished first in the Southeastern Conference's West Division, then lost to Kentucky in the tournament title game.

Coaches: Lute Olson is 447-134 in 18 seasons at Arizona and 639-226 in 28 overall. Rod Barnes is 66-34 in three seasons at Mississippi.

Arizona's lineup: Junior forward Michael Wright was named third team All-American after averaging 16.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. 7-foot-1 center Loren Woods is an effective passer and leads the Wildcats in assists (seven) during the tournament. Guards Gilbert Arenas - who leads the team with 16.6 points a game - and Jason Gardner are the usual recipients of open shots when teams collapse on Wright and Woods.

Mississippi's lineup: Center Rahim Lockhart scored 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting against Notre Dame. The Rebels will need stronger guard play out of David Sanders and Jason Holmes, both of whom average less than seven points a game. Forwards Jason Flanigan (7.1 points) and Justin Reed (10.9) usually pick up the scoring slack but will likely have a tough time down low against the Wildcats' front court.

Bench strength: The Wildcats have had two blowout wins, allowing them to use more reserves than they normally do. If this game is close, expect to see just Eugene Edgerson, Luke Walton and Justin Wessel. All averaged over 11 minutes during the season, with Walton averaging 20.9. Mississippi brings its third- and fourth-leading scorers off the bench in Aaron Harper (9.2) and Jason Harrison (7.2). Harrison also leads the team with 101 assists.

Key matchup: Lockhart vs. Woods. If Woods' size gives Lockhart problems, the Rebels will be forced to find a scorer somewhere else. That could mean trouble for Mississippi. If Woods is off, the Wildcats have a number of other options to turn to.

What Arizona has to do to win: Play at or above the same level the Wildcats showed in the first two games. That starts with defense. Arizona held Butler and Eastern Illinois to a combined average of 64 points and under 39 percent shooting.

What Mississippi has to do to win: Stay close by using its grinding style to frustrate Arizona. The method worked in wins over Iona by two points and Notre Dame by three. They are less talented, so the goal should be to be within five with two minutes left, which should put pressure on the Wildcats.

Bottom line: Arizona was the preseason No. 1. The Wildcats fell down to No. 21 after an 8-5 start but are playing like a team that could win it all. Arizona was 15-0 when scoring 80 points and 10-7 when not during the regular season. If the Rebels have a chance, they will have to keep Arizona under 70.

No. 1 Illinois (26-7) vs. No. 4 Kansas (26-6)

Time: 10:25 approximate

Conference records: Illinois finished 13-4 and tied for the regular-season Big Ten title before losing to Indiana in the conference tournament. Kansas finished tied for second in the Big 12 at 12-4 and lost to Oklahoma in the conference tournament.

Coaches: Bill Self is 26-7 one season at Illinois and 156-87 in eight overall. Roy Williams is 355-88 in 13 seasons at Kansas.

Illinois' lineup: Forward Sergio McClain should be close to 100 percent now. That will only make stronger a starting five that features guard Frank Williams and his 14.7-point average. Center Marcus Griffin is averaging 11.9 points and 6.2 rebounds. Forward Brian Cook scored 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting against Charlotte. Guard Cory Bradford has a streak of 64 straight games with at least one-three pointer.

Kansas' lineup: All five starters score in double figures. The strength of the Jayhawks is in their front line, where forwards Nick Collison, Drew Gooden and Kenny Gregory provide 44 points a game. Guard Jeff Boschee scored 16 in the Jayhawks' win over Syracuse, and point guard Kirk Hinrich guided the team to 56 percent shooting.

Key matchup: Cook vs. Gooden. Gooden leads the Jayhawks in scoring (15.9) and rebounding (8.3), while Cook is a member of the 2000 USA Basketball World Championship team for players 20 and younger.

What Illinois has to do to win: Making 10 three-pointers, as the Illini did in their first two games, would do it. Bradford and Williams could easily combine for that many without help from their teammates.

What Kansas has to do to win: The Jayhawks outrebounded their first two opponents 102-48. Things obviously will not come as easily against Illinois, but if they can win the rebounding battle again and limit the Illini to one chance, the Jayhawks have a good shot.

Bottom line: The Jayhawks are in the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years. Illinois won both of its tournament games by double-digit margins. Kansas has not beat an opponent ranked in the Top 5 since 1997, and unless the Illini are having a horrid shooting night, that streak will continue. - Brent Jones

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