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REGIONAL SEMIFINAL AND FINAL PREVIEW
March 22, 2005

CHICAGO  |  ALBUQUERQUE  |  SYRACUSE  |  AUSTIN

CHICAGO

THE GAME: (1) Illinois vs (12) Wisconsin-Milwaukee

THE STORY: The Panthers are the biggest surprise of this year's Sweet Sixteen. After dominating Alabama on Thursday, UWM battled tooth and nail with Boston College before coming away with the win. Illinois had more trouble than expected with Fairleigh Dickinson but then dismissed Nevada.

THE MATCHUP: Luther Head vs Joah Tucker - Head is the Illini's leading scorer and has played well in the Tourney so far. Tucker is the Panthers' second-leading scorer but has stepped his game up in recent days, leading the team in scoring against both Alabama and Boston College last week.

THE WINNER: Illinois

THE REASON: Wisconsin-Milwaukee was hot last week, but combine a few days off with taking on perhaps the best team in the country, and it looks like the run is coming to an end. It is also important to note that Illinois will be playing in fan-friendly Chicago this weekend.

THE GAME: (2) Oklahoma State vs (3) Arizona

THE STORY: Arizona fought off a fiesty Utah State squad in the first round and then solved UAB's pressing defense in round two to advance. Oklahoma State got a battle from both Southeast Louisiana and Southern Illinois but survived. Now OSU moves out of their home state.

THE MATCHUP: Ivan McFarlin vs Hassan Adams - McFarlin averaged nearly 25 points a game last weekend after scoring only 12 a contest during the regular season. Adams is really only the third offensive option for UA, so will he focus on stepping up his scoring or stopping McFarlin?

THE WINNER: Oklahoma State

THE REASON: Both teams are playing some of their best basketball of the year right now. OSU has won five straight since dropping a home game on Senior Night. That is just one example of the Cowboys' resolve to get back to the Final Four this year with this team. Arizona takes it to the wire.

CHICAGO REGIONAL FINAL: Illinois over Oklahoma State

ALBUQUERQUE

THE GAME: (1) Washington vs (4) Louisville

THE STORY: The Huskies had one of the smoothest runs of the past weekend, hammering both Montana and Pacific on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. The Cardinals held off an underrated LA-Lafayette squad in round one and then ran Georgia Tech out of the building on Sunday to move on.

THE MATCHUP: Brandon Roy vs Larry O'Bannon : Roy averages only about a dozen points a game, but he scored well above his average in both games last weekend. O'Bannon, a scoring threat from downtown, has a height disadvantage and will have to defend Roy inside the three-point arc.

THE WINNER: Louisville

THE REASON: The Cardinals have so many threats behind the three-point arc, making them nearly impossible to stop for an entire game. Washington must keep the Cardinal shooters from getting hot and get three-point production from Robinson, Simmons, and Jones. UL ready to play ball.

THE GAME: (6) Texas Tech vs (7) West Virginia

THE STORY: This is probably the least-expected matchup of any Sweet Sixteen battle. The Raiders took out UCLA first and then came from behind to knock off favored Gonzaga to advance. West Virginia played two of the weekends's best games and beat Creighton and Wake Forest.

THE MATCHUP: Martin Zeno vs Mike Gansey - Zeno is a big-time defensive player but not a huge scoring threat, especially from downtown. Gansey, who averages just a dozen points a game, single-handedly knocked off Wake Forest on Saturday and can score from anywhere on the floor.

THE WINNER: Texas Tech

THE REASON: The Red Raiders have been rolling for a couple weeks now after coming up just short in the Big XII Tournament title game. Bobby Knight has finally got himself back into the Sweet Sixteen, and though West Virginia is also on a roll, the Raiders find a way to squeak the victory out.

ALBUQUERQUE REGIONAL FINAL: Louisville over Texas Tech

SYRACUSE

THE GAME: (1) North Carolina vs (4) Villanova

THE STORY: The Wildcats played impressive ball last weekend, knocking off New Mexico and then slamming Florida without star forward Curtis Sumpter. UNC handled their business with ease, smoking Oakland on Friday and then knocking off Iowa State on Sunday to move along.

THE MATCHUP: Sean May vs Jason Fraser - Fraser is the Cats' sixth-leading scorer but exploded for 21 in the win over UF last weekend. At 6'10", he is the tallest player 'Nova will put on the floor but lacks the bulk to hang with Sean May. Can the quicker Fraser get May in foul trouble?

THE WINNER: North Carolina

THE REASON: Of interest is that Villanova should have the easier trip for its fans to Syracuse. Curtis Sumpter may or may not play, but even if he does, it is likely that he will not be 100%. UNC has the size advantage and should handle the Wildcats unless the Heel big men have foul problems.

THE GAME: (6) Wisconsin vs (10) NC State

THE STORY: With Kansas and UConn in this bracket, few people predicted this matchup. But the Badgers took care of Northern Iowa and then ended Bucknell's run to advance. NC State fought from behind to beat Charlotte and then stunned the Huskies behind the play of star Julius Hodge.

THE MATCHUP: Alando Tucker vs Julius Hodge - Hodge is one of the best players in America when he's on his game but can get frustrated at times. Tucker is the Badgers' leading scorer, but his goal on Friday may be slowing the All-American who scored the winning hoop against UConn.

THE WINNER: NC State

THE REASON: The Wolfpack had to scrap and claw just to earn a NCAA berth and have now advanced to the round of sixteen. Hodge is playing great basketball, and role players like Cameron Bennerman and Andrew Brackman are doing their jobs. Wouldn't NCSU love a shot at rival UNC?

SYRACUSE REGIONAL FINAL: North Carolina over NC State

AUSTIN

THE GAME: (1) Duke vs (5) Michigan State

THE STORY: Duke had a tougher-than-expected test against Delaware State and then slipped past Mississippi State on Sunday to advance to Austin. Michigan State knocked off Old Dominion in round one before ending Vermont's Cinderella run on Sunday to earn a Sweet Sixteen berth.

THE MATCHUP: Shelden Williams vs Paul Davis : This should be a very entertaining battle. Against Vermont's Taylor Coppenrath, Davis had trouble scoring but was a rebounding machine. Williams had a fierce battle with Lawrence Roberts on Sunday but scored 13 and grabbed 15 boards.

THE WINNER: Duke

THE REASON: The magic that is Duke basketball always seems to come out at the right time, just as it did Sunday against Mississippi State. Michigan State is a well-round club but does not have a player that can take a game over like J.J. Redick or anyone else on the Blue Devil bench.

THE GAME: (2) Kentucky vs (6) Utah

THE STORY: The Wildcats faced a tough battle from cross-state rival Eastern Kentucky on Thursday and then eliminated Cincinnati on Saturday to advance. Utah avoid an upset against UTEP to get things started and then sprinted past Oklahoma in the second round to move along.

THE MATCHUP: Chuck Hayes vs Andrew Bogut - Hayes is a defensive and rebounding animal but doesn't do much in terms of scoring. Bogut is an All-American whom Hayes will have to guard on the perimeter as well as down low. If Bogut is getting his, it will open things up for other Utes.

THE WINNER: Kentucky

THE REASON: Though the Utes' complementary players keep stepping up to the challenge, that run should come to an end in Austin. Unlike Utah, UK has no player that can put the team on his shoulders, but it is the Wildcat depth that may make the difference in the end.

AUSTIN REGIONAL FINAL: Duke over Kentucky

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