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What To Look For

March 18, 1997|JASON REID

How they got here: Top-seeded Kentucky could have booked this trip the day the field was announced. Montana provided a light Coach Rick Pitino sweated a little in the second round, but the Wildcats held on for a 75-69 victory over Iowa to run their tournament winning streak to eight games. St. Joseph's had to work hard in both of its games--probably harder than a fourth-seeded team should. After getting by Valparaiso, 73-66, St. Joseph's needed overtime and 14 three-pointers to knock out Boston College, 81-77. Second-seeded Utah went through the motions in a 75-61 victory over overmatched Navy. Then the Utes showed what they can do when interested, taking UNC Charlotte apart, 77-58. No. 6 Stanford showed its versatility in defeating Oklahoma, 80-67. Then the Cardinal showed its depth in upsetting No. 3 Wake Forest, 72-66, ending the collegiate career of All-American center Tim Duncan.

* Difference maker: Keith Van Horn. The Utah All-American forward returned to school for his senior year and is making the most of it. Van Horn had 27 points and eight rebounds in the victory over UNC Charlotte and that wasn't even one of his best performances of the month. He wants the ball with the game on the line, and he knows what to do once he gets it. Just ask Southern Methodist and New Mexico.

* Four questions: Can Pitino coax one more Final Four appearance out of a Wildcat team he says isn't deep enough? Kentucky's reserves were a key to the victory over Iowa, but Pitino insists his bench could be a problem.

Will Utah center Michael Doleac wither against Stanford's superior depth? The Cardinal frustrated Duncan by banging him around with big, rested guys. Doleac is the Utes' only true center, and it would be tough for them to move on if he can't move.

Can St. Joseph's point guard Rashid Bey repeatedly break Kentucky's press? Bey can dribble with the best of them, but no one has handled Kentucky's press with ease for an entire game.

Can Brevin Knight possibly keep this up? The standout Stanford point guard has had 15 assists and only one turnover in the last two games.

* Looking forward to: Knight against Utah's Andre Miller. Knight was a terror in the early rounds and completely outplayed his counterparts from Oklahoma and Wake Forest. But Miller wasn't far behind.

* Glimpse at the coaches: Pitino and Utah's Rick Majerus are the big names and media favorites here. Stanford's Mike Montgomery doesn't dress as well as Pitino or tell jokes, as does Majerus, but he coaches as well as anyone. St. Joseph's Phil Martelli knows how to prepare for big games.

* How it shakes out: The way it was drawn up--Kentucky in a walk over St. Joseph's, Utah in a close one over Stanford.

* Final prediction: Kentucky over Utah.

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