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NCAA COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT | TODAY'S REGIONALS

Midwest Bracket

March 18, 2000|BILL PLASCHKE

AT CLEVELAND

* Kentucky vs. Syracuse: Two slumping former powerhouses meet for the right to get hammered by Michigan State in the Sweet 16. This could get ugly. Kentucky is playing without suspended starting forward Desmond Allison, and without much gas after requiring two overtimes to dispatch St. Bonaventure in the first round. Syracuse lost five of its last 10 games before the tournament after a 19-0 start. The Orangemen played better in a first-round defeat of Samford, yet their best player was not the highly regarded starters Jason Hart or Etan Thomas, but reserve Preston Shumpert. Kentucky's hot hand belongs to Compton's Tayshaun Prince.

* Michigan State vs. Utah: The battered Utes run into arguably the team with the best chance to win a national championship. The Spartans will play defense, illustrated again in the first round when they held Valparaiso to six baskets in the first half and 25% shooting overall. The Spartans will work the boards, as they outrebounded their first 30 opponents by an amazing 14 rebounds per game. All that, and they make nearly 50% of their field goals and 40% of their three-pointers. With starters Jeremy Killion and Nate Althoff doubtful because of injuries, Utah is only a shell of team that reached the tournament final in 1998.

AT MINNEAPOLIS

* Iowa State vs. Auburn: Arguably the best player in the tournament, the Cyclones' Marcus Fizer was double-teamed and held for long periods in their opening-round win over Central Connecticut State. Of course, he still scored 27 points, but the game-changer was guard Jamaal Tinsley, who led Iowa State out of a second-half funk with 26 points. Can Auburn slow him more? Can it spot a weakness in a team that was actually tied with 15th-seeded Central Connecticut with six minutes left? Without suspended star Chris Porter, probably not. The Tigers were just one blocked shot from being pushed to overtime by Creighton in the first round.

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