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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Today's Games

March 26, 2004|Paul Gutierrez

TEXAS (3) vs. XAVIER (7)

* Site: Georgia Dome, Atlanta.

* Time: 4:27 p.m. PST.

* What to watch for: In a battle of brawn versus speed, both Texas (25-7) and Xavier (25-10) are feeling their oats, the Longhorns in their third straight round of 16 and the Musketeers having won 15 of their last 16 games. "At this level in the tournament everyone is good and deep and talented," said Texas senior center James Thomas. Texas, though, is better at the half-court game, muscling up down low while spotting up three-point shooters Brandon Mouton and Brian Boddicker. But Xavier, which shot 69.2% in the second half of its second-round upset of Mississippi State, prefers to free-wheel it with point guard Lionel Chalmers at the helm and shooting guard Romain Sato at his side.

* Key to the game: Xavier needs continued stellar play from its guards and its big men will have to stay out of foul trouble while at least neutralizing Texas' big men, no easy thing when the Longhorns are so deep in the post.

* Projected winner: Xavier.

DUKE (1) vs. ILLINOIS (5)

* Site: Georgia Dome, Atlanta.

* Time: 6:57 p.m. PST.* What to watch for: A battle of backcourts will determine the tone and tempo as both Duke (29-5) and Illinois (26-6) boast ultra-quick guards. The Blue Devils' senior point guard, Chris Duhon, could be slowed by both sore ribs and the Fighting Illini's speedy sophomore Dee Brown. "We've been playing against good guards all year," Brown said, "so it shouldn't be much of an adjustment." The more athletic Illini also might try to fluster Duke three-point specialist J.J. Redick, for whom the Blue Devils will run multiple screens to free.

* Key to the game: If Duhon is game and the opposing guards cancel each other out, Duke freshman forward Luol Deng, a more powerful if unpolished Shawn Marion clone, could become the difference.

* Projected winner: Duke.

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