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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT

East Regional

March 14, 1997|JIM RHODE

* No. 6 Louisville (23-8) vs. No. 11 Massachusetts (19-13)--The Cardinals are usually flying high heading into the tournament but this team went south in losing six of its last 11 games. One reason is that guard DeJuan Wheat lost the feathery outside shooting touch that helped Louisville get out of the gate at 15-1. The flip side for the Cardinals: Coach Denny Crum is 16-4 in first-round games. Massachusetts has the same look as an Arkansas team it defeated in the Sweet 16 last year: double-digit losses and a guard-oriented offense. The Minutemen might be a shot in the dark for the round of 16.

* No. 3 New Mexico (24-7) vs. No. 14 Old Dominion (22-10)--The Lobos, quite frankly, are the pits away from home--10-7 with blowout losses to tournament-bound Tulsa and Utah. And, Old Dominion had the No. 3 seeded team's number in 1995 when it defeated Villanova in the first round. New Mexico's 6-foot-8, 260-pound Kenny Thomas and Old Dominion's 6-9, 275-pound Odell Hodge may resort to sumo-wrestling tactics around the basket.

* No. 7 Wisconsin (18-9) vs. No. 10 Texas (16-11)--The Longhorns made the tournament on strength of schedule (No. 10 among 305 Division I teams) and lack of class schedules for Texas Tech, which withdrew from NCAA consideration before Selection Sunday because of two academically ineligible players. They didn't make it on the shooting of leading scorer Reggie Freeman the final six games--27.6%. With shooting like that, Wisconsin won't have to badger Freeman much to be effective.

* No. 2 South Carolina (24-7) vs. No. 15 Coppin State (21-8)--Eagle Coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell has college's basketball's most unique nickname, but unfortunately his team may be defanged with the possible loss of potential NBA first-round pick Terquin Mott, who suffered a sprained ankle in practice Thursday. Even with a healthy Mott, Coppin State didn't figure to catch South Carolina off guard--Larry Davis, BJ McKie and Melvin Watson account for more than 60% of the Gamecocks' scoring and are deadly free-throw shooters.

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