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Today's Games

March 20, 2004|Chris Dufresne; Robyn Norwood; Hartford Courant

No. 4 MARYLAND vs. No. 5 SYRACUSE

* Site: Denver. * Time: 2:40 p.m. PST.

* What to look for: A matchup of the last two NCAA champions. Maryland won the 2002 title by defeating Indiana, then Syracuse defeated Kansas last year. Maryland (20-11) has no impact players left from its title team and has started from scratch with one of Gary Williams' youngest teams -- center Jamar Smith is the only senior. Syracuse (22-7) lost superstar Carmelo Anthony early to the NBA, but has two important players from last season's team in sophomores Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara.

* Key to the game: Maryland players must fight through screens set by Syracuse center Craig Forth and keep plenty of hands in the face of McNamara, who scored 43 points in the Orangemen's victory over Brigham Young.

-- Chris Dufresne

No. 1 STANFORD vs. No. 8 ALABAMA

* Site: Seattle. * Time: 2:50 p.m. PST.

* What to watch for: Stanford (30-1) has a height advantage at four of five positions and the Cardinal starters outweigh the Crimson Tide's by an average of 18 pounds. Alabama (18-12) is counting on a quickness advantage and wants to push the pace. "If we let them set up offensively, they'll pound it inside," said Alabama guard Antoine Pettway, who made the winning shot with five seconds left against Southern Illinois in the first round. Alabama players say the Southeastern Conference prepared them to play a top-seeded, top-ranked team. "We're not starry-eyed and we're not intimidated," forward Chuck Davis said.

* Key to the game: Alabama will have to make it an up-tempo game and compete with Stanford on the boards to make the game competitive.

-- Robyn Norwood

No. 2 CONNECTICUT vs. No. 7 DePAUL

* Site: Buffalo, N.Y. * Time: 5 p.m. PST.

* What to watch for: The coaching matchup is intriguing. DePaul's Dave Leitao played for Connecticut's Jim Calhoun at Northeastern, then coached with Calhoun at Connecticut. They certainly know each other well. But, as Leitao said, he's more worried about Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon and the people who actually will be playing. Connecticut (28-6) was somewhat flat against Vermont, but Rashad Anderson had six three-point baskets in the 70-53 victory. DePaul (22-9) outlasted Dayton, 76-69, in two overtimes and got 28 points from Drake Diener.

* Key to the game: Diener has to come up big again for DePaul. Connecticut holds about every statistical edge, but Gordon (14 points) needs to score more.

-- Hartford Courant

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