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COLLEGE BASKETBALL NCAA TOURNAMENT

West Regional

March 13, 1997|JIM RHODE

* No. 1 Kentucky (30-4) vs. No. 16 Montana (21-10)--Those frequent-flier miles are piling up for the defending national champion Wildcats, who will exceed 20,000 this season with the trip to Salt Lake City. Certainly, there's a clear runway to the regional final, where Kentucky's opponent figures to be Wake Forest or Utah. The Wildcats are defeating opponents by an average of 21.3 points--a margin that would be a moral victory for Montana. Even guard J.R. Camel (11.9 points a game, 53.8% shooting) won't get the Grizzlies over the hump.

* No. 8 Iowa (21-9) vs. No. 9 Virginia (18-12)--The Cavaliers' appearance in the tournament has been questioned by a few coaches whose NCAA bubbles were burst. Yes, Virginia is the only team to get an at-large bid with a losing conference record--and the only team with a former coach (Terry Holland) who is chairman of the selection committee. Getting into the tournament is one thing; getting past a Dr. Tom Davis-coached team in the first round is quite another--he's 9-0. Iowa guard Andre Woolridge, the first player to lead the Big Ten in scoring (20 points) and assists (5.9) the same season, should help bring the good doctor's first-round scale to a perfect 10.

* No. 5 Boston College (21-8) vs. No. 12 Valparaiso (24-6)--Eagle forward Danya Abrams' scoring and rebounding numbers fell this season from 19.6 and 9.6 a game to 16.5 and 7.9. However, guard-oriented Valparaiso--a 41-point loser in last season's tournament--doesn't figure to offer much resistance to the 6-foot-7, 265-pounder.

* No. 4 St. Joseph's (24-6) vs. No. 13 Pacific (24-5)--Hawk Coach Phil Martelli would gladly have come out West to settle a score with Arizona's Lute Olson, whom he accused of ducking his team last season after an offer was made to play a postponed game in Philadelphia the day after snowy weather had cleared. Well, Arizona was shipped to the Southeast as a No. 4-seeded team, so Martelli will have to settle for Pacific. Opponents are shooting 39.1% against St. Joseph's, which should put a stranglehold on Pacific's perimeter shooters.

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