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MIDWEST REPORT

Speculation centers on Donovan

March 23, 2007|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — The news that Tubby Smith is leaving Kentucky to become coach at Minnesota quickly led to speculation about whether Kentucky will pursue Florida Coach Billy Donovan, a former assistant at the school.

Donovan, who had finished meeting with the media before the news broke, left the Edward Jones Dome without answering more questions.

Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley stopped momentarily and addressed a group of reporters waiting outside the Florida locker room as the team left.

"We're trying to win a national championship and beat Butler. Anything else is highly inappropriate," Foley said. "Billy's trying to coach his team."

Donovan, 41, was an assistant for five seasons at Kentucky under Rick Pitino, who had been his college coach at Providence and now coaches at Louisville, Kentucky's chief rival.

In 11 seasons at Florida, Donovan has reached the Final Four twice and won the NCAA title last season, defeating UCLA in the championship game.

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Nevada Las Vegas guard Wink Adams, who bruised his tailbone in a fall during the Rebels' second-round victory over Wisconsin, said he is "close to 90%."

"Today I was able to practice and run at full speed," he said. "I'll keep icing and keep using the heating pad, and hopefully by tomorrow I'll be close to 100%."

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Oregon Coach Ernie Kent and his players compared UNLV, their opponent in a semifinal tonight, to Pacific 10 teams Arizona and California.

"In a way, it's Arizona, the way they push the ball and try to create open looks," swingman Malik Hairston said. "And also Cal, the way they spread you out, penetrate, kick and get a lot of open shots."

Guard Aaron Brooks pointed to Cal, with an asterisk: "I'd say Cal -- a better version of Cal, because they're in the Sweet 16."

*

Despite both being from the West, UNLV and Oregon have played only twice, and the last time was more than 30 years ago.

UNLV defeated Oregon in Las Vegas, 78-67, in 1976.

In 1974, Oregon defeated UNLV in Eugene, 94-77.

They have never met in the NCAA tournament.

robyn.norwood@latimes.com

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