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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT | South Regional

Today's Games

March 13, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI

At Lexington, NY

* Duke (29-3) vs. Radford (20-9): Hard to believe that the Big South champions, who lost at home to an NAIA school--Belmont University--can avoid a Blue Devil blowout. On 13 occasions this season, against teams ranging from UCLA to Villanova to Mercer, Duke won by 25 points or more, including 58-, 56-, 44- and 36-point stompings. The Blue Devils' only losses were to teams that had significant size--once to Michigan, and twice to North Carolina--and the Highlanders are not in that category.

* New Mexico (23-7) vs. Butler (22-10): The Lobos lost top outside shooter Royce Olney to late-season knee surgery, then lost four of their last six games. It'll probably come down to Kenny Thomas' ability to get shots against Butler, a senior-laden team that was tough enough to beat Oklahoma and Illinois Chicago and play close against Stanford. Opponents shot only 40.5% against Midwestern Collegiate Conference champion Bulldogs.

* Syracuse (24-8) vs. Iona (27-5): For what it's worth, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions were 2-0 this season against Rutgers and Providence--and Syracuse lost games to both of those teams. Iona, which won its last six games, also has center Kashif Hameed, MAAC player of the year, who averaged 15.1 points and 6.3 rebounds. Jim Boeheim's Orangemen made it to the Final Four two years ago, but this season's team doesn't have John Wallace to lead it.

* Oklahoma State (21-6) vs. George Washington (24-8): This one features a fascinating point guard matchup--George Washington's 5-foot-4 Shawnta Rogers vs. Oklahoma State's 6-1 Doug Gottlieb, the Notre Dame transfer from Tustin who doesn't turn the ball over. The Colonials, one of five teams from the Atlantic 10 to make the tournament, also have 7-1 center Alexander Koul, considered a potential NBA center before two straight dull seasons, but lost five of their last nine.

At Atlanta

* Kentucky (29-4) vs. South Carolina State (22-7): The Wildcats romped through the Southeastern Conference tournament and won 10 of their last 11 games. Under Coach Tubby Smith, this isn't the 40-minute-pressing, three-point-bombing team of the Rick Pitino days. Nazr Mohammed and Jamaal Magliore give Kentucky the inside presence, and, as always, there are hordes of outside shooters. South Carolina State, the Mid-Eastern Athletic champion, got crushed by Duke and Clemson.

* Michigan (24-8) vs. Davidson (20-9): Despite the Wolverines' impressive run through the Big Ten tournament, losses to Western Michigan, Bradley and Minnesota, and their inability to avoid turnovers, suggest they can be beaten--but probably not by Davidson. The Wildcats went 0-3 against tournament teams, losing by an average of 34 points. One underappreciated strength of Michigan is its defense. The Wolverines held opponents to 39.5% shooting, kept Duke to 73 points in their win over the Blue Devils and held Murray State 16 points below its scoring average in beating the Racers.

* UCLA (22-8) vs. Miami (18-9): The sixth-seeded Bruins have lost in the first round three of the last four times they have been seeded fourth or lower in a region--to Princeton when a No. 4 in 1996, to Tulsa in 1994 when a No. 5, and to Penn State in 1991 as a No. 4. UCLA hasn't been seeded this low since it was the West Regional's No. 9 team in 1993 and beat Iowa State before losing to Michigan. Though the Hurricanes had Rick Barry in the early 1960s, this is Miami's first NCAA berth since 1960, when it lost in the first round.

* Massachusetts (21-10) vs. Saint Louis (21-10): Watch Billiken freshman guard Larry Hughes--he's an NBA lottery pick whenever he decides to come out, which might be very soon. Hughes, who had more offensive freedom than usually allowed by careful Coach Charlie Spoonhour, had sore wrists for most of the season, but still averaged 20.9 points and 5.1 rebounds. Massachusetts, led by center Lari Ketner and forward Tyrone Weeks, had a tough early stretch--going 6-5 against a brutal schedule--reeled off 10 victories in a row, then limped to the finish.

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