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SPORTS EXTRA / NCAA TOURNAMENT | WEST REGIONAL

At Boise, Idaho

March 15, 2001|DIANE PUCIN

* Wisconsin vs. Georgia State: It still will be early (10:30 a.m. MST) when potentially the best game of this sub-regional begins. With Lefty Driesell's Panthers averaging 81 points and Wisconsin's defense giving up an average of only 59.8 (and more than 70 only three times), this will be a test of wills. The Badgers imposed theirs on last year's tournament well enough to get to the Final Four. "Playing Wisconsin," said Driesell, who has brought his fourth different team to the NCAA tournament, "is almost like how everybody doesn't want to play Princeton. But I like the challenge. You like to play different styles." Georgia State's strength is in the backcourt with guards Shernard Long (a Georgetown transfer) and Kevin Morris, ranked 14th and 19th in the country in steals. It will be the responsibility of Wisconsin's senior guard, Mike Kelley, a defensive whiz, to hold Long in check.

* Maryland vs. George Mason: The Terrapins haven't been to a regional final since 1975 when Driesell was coach. And, such a coincidence, if Maryland and Georgia State win, they'll meet Saturday. First, Maryland must overcome its shaky recent NCAA past. The Terrapins were first-round losers in 1996 and '97 and we all remember their 35-point loss to UCLA last year in the second round. But this Maryland team has won six of seven games and played one of its best efforts Saturday in a close loss to Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals. Maryland guard Juan Dixon is a joy to watch. George Mason is built on defense. The Patriots held James Madison to 36 points in the Colonial Athletic Conference tournament semifinals and North Carolina Wilmington to 33 in the final. Of course, the Patriots scored only 35 in that final.

* Arkansas vs. Georgetown: The Razorbacks have used 19 different starting lineups in 30 games and every player on the team has at least one start. You can count on Joe Johnson to be in that lineup. He leads Arkansas in scoring (14.2 ppg.) and rebounding (6.6 rpg) and is second in assists and steals. Coach Nolan Richardson's team will press and run. Arkansas has scored 80 or more points 15 times and won all those games. Georgetown started 16-0 mostly because the Hoyas were playing teams such as Bethune-Cookman, Nicholls State, Maryland Eastern Shore and Howard. Then Coach Craig Esherick complained about the Hoyas' No. 10 seeding. Like Richardson, Esherick has his team running and pressing.

* Iowa State vs. Hampton: Hampton, winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, is making its first NCAA appearance and the Pirates have won 13 of 14 games, which explains why Georgetown avoided playing the nearby Virginia school. Welcome to the tournament and goodbye, says Iowa State. But fans will enjoy watching Pirate forward Tarvis Williams, who averages 22.3 points and 6.8 rebounds and never stops moving. The Cyclones almost defeated Michigan State in a regional final last year, but this is a different team. The inside presence of Marcus Fizer, a first-round NBA pick, has not been replaced. These Cyclones start three guards and two forwards. This won't matter against Hampton but will later.

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