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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | MIDWEST REGION /
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What To Look For

March 20, 2001|STEVE HENSON

* How they got here: The subregionals were as predictable as a drive across the Midwest. The top-seeded teams advanced, and three had nary a scare.

No. 1 Illinois held Northwestern State of Louisiana and North Carolina Charlotte to 34% shooting en route to victories of 42 and 18 points.

No. 2 Arizona overwhelmed Eastern Illinois and Butler by an average margin of 23 points.

No. 4 Kansas capitalized on a height advantage to outrebound Cal State Northridge and Syracuse, 101-48, in easy victories.

No. 3 Mississippi, making its first trip to the Sweet 16, got by on tenacious defense and unlikely heroes, such as 5-foot-5 guard Jason Harrison, whose three-point basket helped defeat Notre Dame, 59-56.

* Difference makers: From center Loren Woods to forwards Richard Jefferson and Michael Wright to guards Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas, Arizona's balance is unmatched.

Illinois also has several weapons, and the recent emergence of 6-10 forward Brian Cook--12 points in the first 10 minutes against Charlotte--takes scoring pressure off guards Frank Williams and Cory Bradford.

Talented Kansas forwards Drew Gooden and Nick Collison camouflage the limited contribution of 7-1 center Eric Chenowith.

Center Rahim Lockhart is the only consistent scorer for Mississippi.

* Team tidbits: Illinois took exception to Kansas Coach Roy Williams declaring that the monkey is off his back because the Jayhawks advanced beyond the second round for the first time in four years. Said Bradford, noting that the Illini hadn't reached the Sweet 16 since 1989: "For us, it was a huge ape."

Mississippi Coach Rod Barnes had a scare far worse than his team's victories over Iona and Notre Dame. A car carrying his mother, brother and two sons flipped en route to Kansas City. No one was seriously injured.

* How it shakes out: Illinois and Kansas are evenly matched. Arizona should handle Mississippi and make the Final Four.

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