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1998 NCAA TOURNAMENT / SELECTION DAY REPORT

The First Look

UCLA vs. MIAMI; Friday, South Regional, TBA

March 09, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI

* MIAMI AT A GLANCE: This is the Hurricanes' first NCAA appearance since 1960 and only its second ever, but it was an iffy proposition after Miami lost to Georgetown in the first round of the Big East postseason tournament. Miami, which dropped basketball from 1971-1985, joined the Big East Conference seven years ago--which coincided with the hiring of Leonard Hamilton, a former Kentucky assistant. Most famous basketball product: NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry.

* UCLA AT A GLANCE: This is the Bruins' 10th straight NCAA appearance, and second under Coach Steve Lavin. The Bruins lost four games to No. 1-seeded teams this season, lost to No. 3-seeded Stanford twice, and beat No. 4 New Mexico. The senior trio of Toby Bailey, J.R. Henderson and Kris Johnson has a record of 100-26 in their careers, including a 9-2 record in NCAA play.

MIAMI PROBABLE STARTERS

F--Tim James (6-7, 221), No. 40.

F--Mario Bland (6-6, 265), No. 51.

G/F--Vernon Jennings (6-3, 215), No. 30.

G--Kevin Norris (5-9, 195), No. 10.

G--Steve Frazier (6-2, 210), No. 13.

MIAMI KEY RESERVES

F--Dwayne Wimbley (6-9, 240), No. 34.

G/F--Johnny Hemsley (6-5, 200), No. 31.

G--Mike Byars-Dawson (5-10, 195), No. 3.

UCLA PROBABLE STARTERS

F--J.R Henderson (6-9, 233), No. 52.

F--Kris Johnson (6-4, 239), No. 54.

G--Toby Bailey (6-5, 208), No. 12.

G--Baron Davis (6-2, 205), No. 5.

G--Earl Watson (6-0, 183), No. 25.

UCLA KEY RESERVES

F--Travis Reed (6-6, 243), No. 13.

F/G--Rico Hines (6-3, 207), No. 22.

G--Billy Knight (6-4, 186), No. 3.

* FORWARDS: The athletic James is Miami's bread-and-butter player, its leading scorer (16.9-point average), rebounder (9.5 a game) and shot blocker (44 in 27 games). James tore up West Virginia in Miami's two games against the Mountaineers, scoring a combined 45 points and grabbing 30 rebounds in the series split. Henderson benefits most from this match-up: He doesn't have to bang against a talented big body. Johnson has been UCLA's most consistent scorer (at 18.7 a game) since his return from a four-game suspension.

* CENTERS: Neither team has a center. UCLA lost its only true center when McCoy left the team, but McCoy was averaging only about 18 minutes at the time and did not start any of his 15 games. Miami seven-footer Nick Donovan suffered a torn anterior-cruciate ligament early in the season.

GUARDS: The emotional leader of Miami is Norris, a flashy senior distributor among a bunch of young players. UCLA is looking to its two freshman guards, Davis and Watson, to set the pace--lots of pressing, defensive aggression, and sprints to the basket on the fastbreak. Bailey has scored 19, 32, 22 and 22 points in his last four games, and grabbed nine, three, eight and nine rebounds.

* INTANGIBLES: It's the experience of the Bruin seniors against Miami's excitement at making the tournament at all. UCLA, which has won 11 national titles since Miami last made the tournament, has lost in the first round the last three times it was seeded fourth or lower.

* COACHING: Hamilton was a member of Joe B. Hall's staff when Kentucky won the national title in 1978-- when Lavin was 13 years old. Hamilton has guided the Hurricanes through a gradual progression, from getting whomped in the Big East to an NIT bid last season (and first-round loss) to victories over Connecticut and West Virginia this season, which raised the team's RPI ranking to 48 and got it into the tournament.

* THE PICK: Though the Hurricanes have averaged only 70.4 points a game, they can get out to a fast pace at times, which is exactly what UCLA wants and needs in its first-round foe. The Bruins struggled in the late going, but if they show up with the energy they displayed in Saturday's loss to Arizona, if they play defense with the same zest, Bailey, Henderson and Johnson's own individual offensive talents are enough. UCLA over Miami.

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