Ncaa Tournament

March 26, 2004|By Mike Huguenin | Mike Huguenin,Orlando Sentinel

ATLANTA REGIONAL

No. 3 Texas vs. No. 7 Xavier

Time: 7:27 p.m.

Records: Texas 25-7, Xavier 25-10.

How they got here: Texas defeated No. 14 Princeton, 66-49, beat No. 6 North Carolina, 78-75; Xavier defeated No. 10 Louisville, 80-70, beat No. 2 Mississippi State, 89-74.

What to watch for: Texas has the deepest bench in the tournament and a stable of talented big men, but that won't matter unless the Longhorns can adequately defend Xavier guards Lionel Chalmers, Romain Sato and Dedrick Finn. Chalmers has been on fire in the tournament (56 points on 19-for-26 shooting in two games) and will cause problems for Texas because of his quickness and outside shooting. Texas lacks a true point guard and will have problems with the Musketeers' defensive pressure. But Xavier - which has won 15 of its past 16 - lacks experienced big men, so look for Texas to try to pound the ball inside to Jason Klotz, Brad Buckman and James Thomas.

Keys to the game: If the Longhorns struggle in the paint, Xavier can pull another upset. That means the Musketeers need good defensive work from senior F Anthony Myles and a trio of freshman forwards (Justin Cage, Brandon Cole and Justin Doellman). And the Musketeers also need continued good play from their guards. Texas' guards will be the best defenders Xavier has faced in the tournament.

Projected winner: Texas.

The line: Texas by 2 1/2 .

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Illinois

Time: 9:57 p.m. (approximate)

Records: Duke 29-5, Illinois 26-6.

How they got here: Duke defeated No. 16 Alabama State, 96-61, defeated No. 8 Seton Hall, 90-62; Illinois defeated No. 12 Murray State, 72-53, defeated No. 4 Cincinnati, 92-68.

What to watch for: Illinois has looked mighty impressive in rolling to two big wins in the tournament, and a top-notch backcourt has been the key. In guards Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams, the Illini have guys who are quick, can shoot the three-pointer and play good on-the-ball defense. The Illini's big guys are complementary talents, nothing more. Duke also likes a fast pace, and the Blue Devils have a nice guard trio of their own in Chris Duhon, Daniel Ewing and J.J. Redick. Duke's Shelden Williams will be the best big man on the floor and should be able to score consistently in the paint. When that happens, Ewing and Redick get more room to fire away.

Keys to the game: Illinois must limit its mistakes, be effective in transition, hit its three-pointers and hope Williams gets into foul trouble. Duke's backcourt gets a lot of media attention - and it's deserved - but Illinois' backcourt is mighty good, too. The difference in this one will be the play of the frontcourts.

Projected winner: Duke.

The line: Duke by 7.

ST. LOUIS REGIONAL

No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 9 UAB

Time: 7:10 p.m.

Records: Kansas 23-8, Alabama-Birmingham 22-9.

How they got here: Kansas beat No. 13 Illinois-Chicago, 78-53, beat No. 12 Pacific, 78-63; UAB beat No. 8 Washington, 102-100, beat No. 1 Kentucky, 76-75.

What to watch for: Alabama-Birmingham pulled the tournament's biggest upset by ousting Kentucky, which was the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Blazers are deep and athletic, and they play an aggressive, attacking defense (coach Mike Anderson was a longtime assistant to Nolan Richardson). The go-to guy is 5-foot-11 G Mo Finley, who has excellent quickness, and 5-9 point guard Carldell Johnson has a phenomenal 3.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and good range. But UAB is bad on the boards (minus-4.9 rebound differential). Kansas is aiming for its third consecutive Final Four berth. The Jayhawks aren't as good offensively as the past few seasons, and freshman swingman J.R. Giddens is the only consistent three-point threat. Wayne Simien is a lot to handle down low, but he doesn't always get enough help. Point guard Aaron Miles is steady and doesn't make many mistakes.

Keys to the game: UAB wants a frenetic pace and needs to force at least 15 turnovers. But Miles takes good care of the ball and gets the ball to the right guys at the right time. Kansas has an advantage down low and needs to exploit that. UAB has a big-time depth advantage, and the Blazers need to make sure that comes into play tonight.

Projected winner: UAB.

The line: Kansas by 4.

No. 3 Georgia Tech vs. No. 10 Nevada

Time: 9:40 p.m. (approximate)

Records: Georgia Tech 25-9, Nevada 25-8.

How they got here: Georgia Tech defeated No. 14 Northern Iowa, 65-60, defeated No. 6 Boston College, 57-54; Nevada defeated No. 7 Michigan State, 72-66, defeated No. 2 Gonzaga, 91-72.

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