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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT | SOUTH REGIONAL

Today's Games / At Lexington, Ky.

March 15, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI

* Duke (30-3) vs. Oklahoma State (22-6): The Blue Devils should be fresh after an easy 99-63 victory over Radford on Friday--no Duke player played more than 23 minutes. The Cowboys, on the other hand, had four players log 34 minutes or more in a typically grinding defeat of--in this case--George Washington. If Duke can knock Oklahoma State's offense off balance, create turnovers and get running, the Cowboys have no chance. But if Trajan Langdon stays cold (0 for 7 shooting against Radford) and the Blue Devils have to play a half-court game, the Cowboys should keep it close.

* New Mexico (24-7) vs. Syracuse (25-8): This time, the Lobos must get much more from leading scorer Kenny Thomas than his three-point, foul-out performance in their 79-62 first-round victory over Butler. But Syracuse's match-up zone is tricky, and the Lobos' 6-foot-11 Ben Baum (three for three from three-point distance against Butler) needs to stay hot. Meanwhile, the Orangemen got to this game despite committing 20 turnovers against Iona, with guard Marius Janulis making a three-point basket to win it, 63-61.

AT ATLANTA

* Kentucky (30-4) vs. Saint Louis (22-10): This one might be the usual Kentucky thing of beauty. The Billikens rely on tight defense and the end-game acrobatics of freshman Larry Hughes, which is how they upended Massachusetts, 51-46, in the first round. Saint Louis has not given up 80 points all season. Kentucky is getting significant play from center Nazr Mohammed, and plays some serious defense itself, allowing an average of 65.9 points.

* Michigan (25-8) vs. UCLA (23-8): The last time the Wolverines had an interim coach, it was 1989, Steve Fisher was the coach--replacing Bill Frieder--and No. 3-seeded Michigan started an unlikely national-title run with two victories in Atlanta. Now Brian Ellerbe is the interim coach, having replaced Fisher, and the Wolverines are playing solid defense and have a strong, inside-outside offense. That contrasts with UCLA, whose players admit needed luck to beat Miami on Friday. Did the Bruins, who haven't beaten a higher-seeded team since 1993, leave their "A" game on the floor in their tough loss to close the regular season against Arizona?

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