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NCAA TOURNAMENT AT A GLANCE

East Regional : What To Look For

March 10, 1998|ROBYN NORWOOD

* The draw: North Carolina, the top-seeded team in the East and No. 1 in the nation, got no particular favor, what with four other teams in the top 15 in its regional, particularly potentially troublesome Connecticut, perhaps the strongest of the second-seeded teams. Also in the East are Princeton, Michigan State and South Carolina. That may be the tournament committee's way of evening things out for allowing the Tar Heels the chance to play for a second consecutive trip to the Final Four in what amounts to a home court at Greensboro Coliseum, where North Carolina won the Atlantic Coast conference tournament over Duke on Sunday. Intriguing teams are Princeton, trying to live up to its No. 5 seeding, and controversial Bob Knight's Indiana, a first-round loser the last three years.

* Best first-round game: In the ultimate clash of styles and pedigrees, Princeton plays Nevada Las Vegas. It is pass-and-screen against run-and-gun, the Ivy League against Glitter Gulch. This would have been a laugher in 1990 or '91, and it may be this time, only it is confounding to figure out which team will win.

* Sleeper: UNLV lost its best player, center Keon Clark, to off-court problems during the season, but the resurgent Rebels knocked off Utah, Fresno State and New Mexico in the Western Athletic Conference tournament to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991, the days of Jerry Tarkanian.

* Upset in the making: Watch out for Eastern Michigan and fabulous 5-foot-5 point guard Earl Boykins against Michigan State. Eastern Michigan upset Michigan this season and would love to knock off the other big state school, Michigan State. The Spartans stalled with an upset loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, and if Mateen Cleaves--who will have to guard Boykins--goes two for 18 again, Eastern Michigan might win.

* Impact coach: Dean Smith. He looks very relaxed as a commentater on CBS, but that twinkle in the retired coach's eye might be over the sessions he and North Carolina Coach Bill Guthridge will have on how to counter Princeton if the teams meet a second time, which can't happen until the regional semifinal. Guthridge is a fine coach in his own right, but he's at ease seeking Smith's input. If there is a Princeton rematch, it won't be as close as the eight-point defeat that was the Tigers' only loss of the season.

* Impact player: North Carolina forward Antawn Jamison is a lock for the Wooden Award and other national player-of-the-year honors, and he proved himself again in the ACC tournament final with a 22-point, 18-rebound performance against Duke, despite a groin injury. Should that injury hamper Jamison, the Tar Heel Express will be derailed.

* The pick: North Carolina.

EAST REGIONAL

FIRST-ROUND GAMES, THURSDAY

1. North Carolina (30-3) 9:15 a.m.

16. Navy (19-10)

*

8. North Carolina Char. (19-10)*

9. Illinois Chicago (22-5)

*

4. Michigan State (20-7)*

13. Eastern Michigan (20-9)

*

5. Princeton (26-1) 4:30 p.m.

12. UNLV (20-12)

*

2. Connecticut (29-4)*

15. Farleigh Dickinson (23-6)

*

7. Indiana (19-11) 4:30 p.m.

10. Oklahoma (22-10)

*

3. South Carolina (23-7)*

14. Richmond (22-7)

*

6. Xavier (22-7) 9:15 a.m.

11. Washington (18-9)

* Thirty minutes after previus game

ALL TIMES PACIFIC

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