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EAST | NO. 5 USC VS. NO. 12 ARKANSAS

First look

March 12, 2007|BEN BOLCH

USC (23-11) vs.

Arkansas (21-13)

* They play: Friday at Spokane, Wash., about 6:45 p.m.

* How they advanced: USC helped its standing with the selection committee by winning two games in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament. Arkansas was considered one of the final teams to secure an at-large bid after advancing to the championship game of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

* Hot or not: Both teams advanced to the championship game of their conference tournaments before suffering lopsided losses. Oregon defeated USC, 81-57, and Florida defeated Arkansas, 77-56. USC split its last 10 games, and Arkansas was 6-4.

* Common opponents: USC lost to South Carolina, 80-74, in overtime on Nov. 16 in its season opener. Arkansas lost to South Carolina, 66-60, on Jan. 24 and defeated the Gamecocks, 82-52, in the SEC tournament March 8.

* Telltale sign: Both teams are good at holding opponents below 50% shooting. Arkansas has allowed only three opponents to surpass that threshold, USC four.

* Style of play: Both teams rely on stifling, man-to-man defenses and like to push the pace on offense whenever they get the opportunity. The Razorbacks have the versatility to play with a traditional two-guard, two-forward, one-center lineup or can switch things up and go big or small. The Razorbacks go eight or nine deep.

* Watch these guys: USC's Nick Young and Lodrick Stewart will be eager to make a big showing in what will probably be the only NCAA tournament for either player. Stewart is a senior and Young, a junior, could declare for the NBA draft in June. Arkansas' top player is guard Patrick Beverley, the SEC freshman of the year, who averages 14.1 points.

* What to expect: USC wants to make the most of its first NCAA tournament appearance in five years. Arkansas has lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament in each of its last three appearances by four points or fewer. The Trojans should hold on -- barely.

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