Midwest semifinals

March 27, 2003|By Christian Ewell

No. 1 Kentucky (31-3) vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (24-7)

Site: Metrodome, Minneapolis

Time: 7:10 tonight

Conference records: Having gone 19-0 in the Southeastern Conference, Kentucky is the first team since 1952 to go undefeated through the SEC regular season and postseason. With a 12-4 league record, Wisconsin won the Big Ten championship outright for the first time since 1947.

Coaches: Tubby Smith is 163-46 in six seasons at Kentucky and 287-108 in 12 seasons overall. Bo Ryan is 43-20 in two seasons at Wisconsin and 426-123 in 19 seasons overall.

Kentucky's lineup: G Keith Bogans (16.0 ppg), G Gerald Fitch (12.2 ppg), F Chuck Hayes (9.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), F Erik Daniels (9.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg), C Marquis Estill (10.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg).

Wisconsin's lineup: G Kirk Penney (16.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg), G/F Alando Tucker (12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), G Devin Harris (12.6 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 steals), G Freddie Owens (10.6 ppg, 1.7 apg), F Mike Wilkinson (10.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg).

Bench strength: The Badgers are regarded as lacking in this category, but they were able to get quality minutes from reserves Boo Wade and Andreas Helmigk in a comeback win over Tulsa on Saturday. The Wildcats have the better depth with guard Cliff Hawkins, forward Antwain Barbour and center Jules Camara -- a starter for 29 games last season.

Key matchup: The most interesting head-to-head matchup might be Penney against Bogans, a pair of powerfully built wing guards. Bogans, a DeMatha graduate, is the more well-known player, but Penney has been a Big Ten first-team selection the past two years.

What Kentucky needs to do to win: Go inside. Wisconsin's big men struggled against Weber State and Tulsa, so the Wildcats might want to give early looks to Estill and Camara.

What Wisconsin needs to do to win: Maintain a slow pace. Because of the team's depth problems, track meets aren't its bag. A strong shooting night outside wouldn't hurt, but a slugfest would give the Badgers a chance at the end.

Bottom line: Wisconsin is in big trouble and everyone knows it. Look for Kentucky to advance to the regional final.

No. 2 Pitt (28-4) vs. No. 3 Marquette (25-5)

Site: Metrodome, Minneapolis

Time: Approximately 9:40 tonight

Conference records: Pittsburgh went 13-3 to tie Syracuse for the West Division championship in the Big East, and also won the league's postseason tournament. Marquette cruised through the Conference USA's regular season, going 14-2 to win the American Division.

Coaches: Ben Howland is 61-39 in four seasons at Pittsburgh and 168-98 in nine seasons overall. Tom Crean is 81-41 in four seasons at Marquette.

Pittsburgh's lineup: G Julius Page (12.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg), G Brandin Knight (10.8 ppg, 7.0 apg), F Jaron Brown (10.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg), F Donatas Zavackas (10 ppg, 4.5 rpg), C Ontario Lett (10.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg).

Marquette's lineup: G Dwyane Wade (21.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.2 steals), G Travis Diener (12.2 ppg, 5.5 apg), F Scott Merritt (9.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg), F Todd Townsend (6.6 ppg, 2.0 apg), C Robert Jackson (15.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg).

Bench strength: Pittsburgh's strength is in the frontcourt. Forward Chevron Troutman started for much of last season and center Toree Morris is another reserve who can provide some muscle. In freshman Scott Novak, Marquette has a 6-10 forward with the ability to make shots from outside -- he three three-pointers in overtime in the second-round win over Missouri.

Key matchup: Pittsburgh's backcourt against Marquette's backcourt. Wade is the Golden Eagles' star -- a candidate for national awards for much of this season -- but point guard Diener averaged 27 points in the first two tournament games. Knight is near the top of any list of the nation's top point guards and Page will probably be the one who will have to contain Wade.

What Pittsburgh needs to do to win: Continue its formula of defense and rebounding. The former is particularly vital, as Diener's NCAA outbursts have been the difference in getting the Golden Eagles to this point.

What Marquette needs to do to win: Force a fast pace. The Panthers have kept opponents under 70 points in 29 of their 32 games and their offense operates best when it's deliberate.

Bottom line: The two teams seem to be mirror images, but Pittsburgh has more balance in the frontcourt and its defense makes it better able to withstand offensive droughts.

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