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Today's Game

NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

March 25, 2004|Robyn Norwood

CONNECTICUT (2) vs. VANDERBILT (6)

* Site: America West Arena, Phoenix.

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

* What to watch for: Connecticut (29-6) is the heaviest favorite to advance to the Elite Eight among the Sweet 16 teams. Even Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings calls his team an "extreme underdog." The Commodores (23-9) have lost to Connecticut the last two seasons, including a 76-70 loss at home last season in which the Huskies' Emeka Okafor had 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. Matt Freije, Vanderbilt's star forward, scored 31 points in a second-round upset of North Carolina State and guard Mario Moore has averaged 21 points in NCAA tournament games, having made nine of 13 three-pointers.

* Key to the game: There's Okafor, of course, but there is also Connecticut's blistering running game. "They're the fastest team from defensive board to offensive end I've seen in college basketball," Stallings said.

* Projected winner: Connecticut.

*

SYRACUSE (5) vs. ALABAMA (8)

* Site: America West Arena, Phoenix.

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

* What to watch for: Whenever Alabama (19-12) plays, the game is often close. The Crimson Tide has played four overtime games this season and survived last-second shots in the first two rounds of the tournament. Alabama knocked out top-seeded Stanford when a three-pointer to force overtime bounded off the rim, and survived a miss at the buzzer against Southern Illinois in the first round. Syracuse (23-7) has two explosive scorers in forward Hakim Warrick, who scored 26 against Maryland, and shooting guard Gerry McNamara, who scored 43 against Brigham Young.

* Key to the game: Syracuse ought to be able to win if McNamara and Warrick aren't thwarted by an Alabama defense that has held opponents to 41.3% shooting.

* Projected winner: Syracuse.

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