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NCAA PREVIEW | West Regional

What To Look For

March 17, 2003|Steve Henson

* THE DRAW: This region could be like taking candy from a, well, a candy machine for No. 1-seeded Arizona, which outscored No. 2 Kansas by 38 points in the last 25 minutes of a game Jan. 25, one day after several sweet-toothed Wildcat players allegedly ransacked a vending machine. No. 3 Duke failed to gain a No. 1 seeding for the first time in six years and probably will face dangerous No. 6 Creighton in a second-round game. Gonzaga has been unable to get past Arizona before, and Illinois or Notre Dame won't relish the task, either, especially with the Wildcats staying close to home until the Final Four.

* BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME: No. 7 Memphis vs. No. 10 Arizona State. Sun Devil center Ike Diogu, 19, gives up six years to Chris Massie, 25, of Memphis, but nothing else. Diogu scored in double figures in every game this season. Point guard Antonio Burks, 23, and sixth man John Grice, 23, are other veterans on a Memphis team that has been superb the last month. Arizona State faltered down the stretch and lost in the first round of the Pacific 10 tournament, but this is its first NCAA appearance since 1995. The Sun Devils will savor every moment.

* SLEEPER: There is unprecedented excitement in Omaha over tiny Creighton. Coach Dana Altman, whose name has surfaced for the anticipated UCLA opening, uses a 10-player rotation led by All-American candidate and three-point shooting specialist Kyle Korver. Creighton should handle Central Michigan and 7-foot center Chris Kaman, advancing to a showdown against the most vulnerable Duke team in years.

* UPSET IN THE MAKING: Gonzaga over Cincinnati. It wouldn't be much of a shocker, but the Bulldogs could romp if they catch Cincinnati on one of its frequent lackluster shooting days. Gonzaga should bring a large contingent of fans to Salt Lake City, making a second-round game against Arizona a marquee event.

* IMPACT COACH: Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. Three national championships and nine Final Fours give him the edge over fellow coaching legends Lute Olson of Arizona (one title, five Final Fours) and Roy Williams of Kansas (zero titles, three Final Fours).

* IMPACT PLAYER: Nick Collison. The Kansas senior is in the mold of other experienced big men who dominate the tournament on their way out the door to the NBA. The 6-9 Collison runs the floor well and should give the Jayhawks an edge in a potential Sweet 16 matchup against Duke.

* THE PICK: Arizona. The Wildcats provided Steve Lavin with his last victory as UCLA coach, but should regroup and march to the Final Four. This supplies Lavin in his next job with a ready-made uplifting saga, a sure-fire way of convincing unsuspecting listeners his last Bruin season was a rousing success.

-- Steve Henson

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

BY THE NUMBERS

*--* Team PPG PA FG% 3-PT% PPS RPG 1. Arizona 85.2 70.2 461 351 1.30 42.8 16. Vermont 69.5 63.5 453 347 1.32 41.7 2. Kansas 82.8 66.3 492 341 1.32 41.7 15. Utah St 66.8 59.8 465 342 1.28 35.1 3. Duke 81.9 70.2 454 355 1.35 36.9 14. Colorado St 75.9 71.7 516 367 1.43 35.6 4. Illinois 75.6 61.5 487 368 1.36 35.0 13. W. Kentucky 74.1 66.5 464 366 1.31 36.0 5. Notre Dame 78.8 71.1 448 376 1.32 38.3 12. Wis. Milw 77.3 69.9 476 354 1.34 34.5 6. Creighton 79.2 64.3 499 389 1.38 34.1 11. C. Michigan 80.5 72.9 507 387 1.50 33.9 7. Memphis 74.3 68.6 441 344 1.24 40.0 10. Arizona St 76.8 69.3 484 323 1.35 37.0 8. Cincinnati 67.0 61.5 411 352 1.19 35.3 9. Gonzaga 77.1 68.2 470 376 1.39 37.3

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Key: PPG-points per game; PA-Points allowed per game; FG%-Field goal percentage; 3-PT%-3-point field goal percentage; PPS-points per shot; RPG-Rebounds per game.

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