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NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT | TODAY'S GAMES

Phoenix Regional

March 18, 2004|Robyn Norwood; Chris Dufresne; Hartford Courant

No. 8 ALABAMA vs. No. 9 SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

* Site: Seattle.

* Time: 11:40 a.m.

* What to watch for: Forward Kennedy Winston is the star for Alabama (17-12), and he made a big impression when he scored 31 points in a February upset of Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide played the nation's toughest schedule, and its record reflects it. Southern Illinois (25-4) didn't have any marquee victories but is ranked in the top 25 and earned an at-large bid despite being upset in the Missouri Valley tournament.

* Key to the game: Alabama is a streaky shooting team -- as low as 33% and as high as 54% this season -- so if the Alabama players are hot, they'll probably win.

*

No. 1 STANFORD vs. No. 16 TEXAS SAN ANTONIO

* Site: Seattle.

* Time: 2:10 p.m.

* What to watch for: Stanford (29-1) simply needs to build on its winning performance in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament. Texas San Antonio (19-13) has a standout forward in LeRoy Hurd, a transfer who played for Miami on the 2000 NCAA tournament team that reached the Sweet 16. Keep an eye on Stanford point guard Chris Hernandez. No less an expert than Arizona Coach Lute Olson called him one of the best leaders he has seen in the Pac-10.

* Key to the game: The result shouldn't be in doubt, but for Stanford it's important for power forward Justin Davis to play enough minutes to continue to gain strength and conditioning after sitting out 10 games because of a knee injury.

Robyn Norwood

*

No. 4 MARYLAND vs. No. 13 TEXAS EL PASO

* Site: Denver.

* Time: 9:40 a.m. PST.

* What to watch for: Expect Maryland to continue the momentum that took the Terrapins from an NCAA bubble team a few weeks ago to an upper-echelon seeding in this bracket. Expect UTEP players to be nervous. Maryland won the national title two years ago and is rounding into form, while Texas El Paso is making its first NCAA showing since 1992. The Miners have a nice player in guard Filiberto Rivera, but it's hard to envision UTEP stealing this one.

* Key to the game: UTEP is a good shooting team that doesn't need directions to the basket, but probably needs a lights-out effort against a rugged Maryland defense that held ACC opponents to 39.4% shooting.

*

No. 5 SYRACUSE vs. No. 12 BRIGHAM YOUNG

* Site: Denver.

* Time: 12:10 p.m. PST.

* What to watch for: Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim trying to sneak Denver Nugget rookie Carmelo Anthony into the game? OK, not an option, but how about the Orangemen making a statement that they are defending national champions until someone beats them? Don't let the similar records fool you. Syracuse went 21-7 but had to bully through the rugged Big East while BYU got to 21-8 in the Mountain West, a weaker conference.

* Key to the game: Syracuse is not very deep, so forward Hakim Warrick and guard Gerry McNamara cannot afford a poor shooting night. McNamara tends to come up big when it counts. Remember, he made six three-pointers in last year's national-title win over Kansas.

Chris Dufresne

*

No. 2 CONNECTICUT vs. No. 15 VERMONT

* Site: Buffalo, N.Y.

* Time: 4:10 p.m. PST.

* What to watch for: Emeka Okafor's back and Charlie Villanueva's ankle. If both are healthy, look out. With Okafor, Villanueva and Josh Boone up front, Vermont's (22-8) leading scorer, Taylor Coppenrath, will realize the difference between the Big East and the America East. Look for Connecticut's (27-6) front line to do damage, as well as guard Ben Gordon, who last week set a Big East tournament record by scoring 81 points in three games, surpassing the mark of Allen Iverson.

* Key to the game: Coppenrath put up 43 Saturday as Vermont won the America East tournament title and the automatic bid. Not that he'll get it, but 43 wouldn't be enough against Connecticut.

*

No. 7 DePAUL vs. No. 10 DAYTON

* Site: Buffalo, N.Y.

* Time: 6:40 p.m. PST.

* What to watch for: DePaul (21-9) will be without reserve guard LeVar Seals, who will sit out the game because he punched Cincinnati's Tony Bobbitt in the groin and was ejected Saturday. Seals doesn't score much but averages 17 minutes a game and is among the team's best defenders. Dayton's (24-8) three key players are all seniors, with tournament experience.

* Key to the game: Both teams can rebound, so the battle of the boards should be a key to this one.

-- Hartford Courant

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