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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Today's Games

March 26, 2004|Rob Fernas

ALABAMA BIRMINGHAM (9) vs. KANSAS (4)

* Site: St. Louis

* Time: 4:10 p.m. PST

* What to watch for: Alabama Birmingham (22-9) relies on speed and depth to overcome its lack of size. Senior guard Mo Finley (12.7 points per game), senior forward Gabe Kennedy and sophomore forward Demario Eddins lead a balanced lineup for the Blazers, who also get big contributions from their reserves. Kansas (23-8) is led by forward Wayne Simien (17.6 ppg), a third-team All-American who has been bothered by a groin injury but managed to average a double-double in the first two games of the tournament. Simien, 6 feet 9 and 250 pounds, and reserve forward Jeff Graves, 6-9 and 255, could give Alabama Birmingham trouble inside.

* Key to the game: Alabama Birmingham prides itself on playing the "fastest 40 minutes of basketball" in the nation. Kansas needs to be patient and minimize mistakes against the Blazers' intense pressure.

* Projected winner: Kansas.

GEORGIA TECH (3) vs. NEVADA (10)

* Site: St. Louis

* Time: 6:40 p.m. PST

* What to watch for: Georgia Tech (25-9) has compensated for a lack of offense in the tournament by forcing turnovers and limiting opponents to less than 40% shooting. Yellow Jacket guards B.J. Elder (16.0 ppg) and Jarrett Jack are explosive scorers but lack consistency, and center Luke Schenscher, a 7-1 junior from Australia, tends to get into foul trouble. Nevada (25-8) has relied on a balanced attack and aggressive inside play to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. Junior guard Kirk Snyder can score from the perimeter and the lane, and Wolf Pack forwards Kevinn Pinkney and Nick Fazekas provide offense and rebounding.

* Key to the game: Georgia Tech will try to create fast-break opportunities by causing turnovers. Nevada's ball handlers, particularly point guard Todd Okeson, need to play as steady as they did in a second-round upset of Gonzaga.

* Projected winner: Georgia Tech.

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