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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT

Midwest Regional

March 15, 1997|TIM KAWAKAMI

* No. 3 Cincinnati (26-7) vs. No. 6 Iowa State (21-8)--Two spotlight, straight-up, forget-the-zone, man-to-man matchups in this one: Cincinnati inside scorer Danny Forston vs. Iowa State shot-blocker Kelvin Cato; and Bearcat key defender Damon Flint vs. Cyclone scorer Dedric Willoughby. Iowa State will try to slow things down and get Forston in foul trouble--and Cato may need to duplicate the monster, 29-point, 12-rebound, eight-blocked-shot performance against Illinois State in the first round. Last year, the Bearcats lost in the Southeast Regional final to Mississippi State, which was very similar to--but more talented than--this season's Iowa State squad.

* No. 2 UCLA (22-7) vs. No. 7 Xavier (23-5)--Which bunch of racehorses will stay most under control? UCLA, which has won 10 games in a row, has cut its turnovers way down in the last seven games, averaging only 14 giveaways. But keeping the ball away from the Musketeer defenders will be a challenge for the Bruins. Xavier will give up easy baskets--and nobody finishes easy baskets with more authority than UCLA--but loves to catch opponents off-guard and is capable of forcing three or four turnovers in a row. UCLA Coach Steve Lavin said he wouldn't be surprised if Xavier drops the full-court press for this game, but Xavier Coach Skip Prosser would be facing an even bigger mismatch--his smallish team against the Bruin front line in a half-court game. "I don't think what we do is that cryptic," Prosser said. "We want our guys to take risks on offense--and be aggressive on defense. But maybe against UCLA we'll press with a little more intelligence." UCLA players were relaxed and jovial at a news conference Friday. "This is the fun part of the year for them," Lavin said. "I told them, 'Have fun. Enjoy yourselves.' I think we're seeing that some of the pressures are behind them--the pressure to win the conference, the pressure to get a good seed, the pressure to win the first game. . . . Now, we've done all those things, and we move on. We don't think we've arrived or anything, but I think our players realize that we've done some special things this year."

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