Regional Matchup boxes

Posted: March 22, 2007

Tennessee vs. Ohio State

NCAA South Regional semifinal

When: Tonight, 10 (approximate)

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio

TV/Radio: CBS3/WPEN (950-AM)

Records: Tennessee 24-10, Ohio State 32-2.

History: This is the fourth meeting, second this season. Ohio State has won the previous three, including 68-66 on Jan. 13 in Columbus. Before this year, the teams last met in 1979.

How they got here: Tennessee, the fifth seed, beat Long Beach State, 121-86, and Virginia, 77-74. Top-seeded Ohio State beat Central Connecticut State, 78-57, and Xavier, 78-71 in overtime.

Coaches: Tennessee's Bruce Pearl is 46-18 in 2 years at the school, 363-102 in 15 seasons overall; Thad Matta is 78-21 in 3 years at OSU, 180-52 in seven seasons overall.

Three things Tennessee must do:

1. It wouldmake sense for the Vols to do what they did in the first game; the Buckeyes needed a late three-pointer to pull it out. Greg Oden was huge, with 24 points and 15 rebounds; the Vols' backcourt of Chris Lofton and Ramar Smith combined for 37 of their team's 66 points.

2. Give the crowd every opportunity to get behind the underdog. Everyone not wearing scarlet and/or gray will be looking for an upset, particularly if Texas A&M survives in the opener.

3. Lofton was the SEC Player of the Year; he's going to have to be the man. He can't do it alone, but he's probably going to have to do the most damage for the Vols.

Three things Ohio State must do:

1. Play like the top-ranked team in the country. The Buckeyes have their flaws, like every team this side of Florida. Or is that Kansas? Either way, they also have as many weapons as North Carolina. Put them to the best use.

2. Greg Oden will be the first pick in the NBA draft, so play to his strengths. Don't shoot threes when he's a two waiting to happen down low. If he doesn't touch the ball enough, there's only so much he can do. This isn't a one-dimensional team, but sometimes you've got to ride the biggest pony in the herd for all he's worth.

3. Another first-year guy, Mike Conley Jr., has been known to control games from the point. If he doesn't have at least a decent night, his team might not, either.

What to expect: I'm tempted to go with the upset, because the Buckeyes sure looked vulnerable against Xavier. But maybe that's the reason why it won't happen. Can't see them playing twice like that. And they should remember what almost happened 2 months ago against the Vols.

- Mike Kern


Texas A & M vs. Memphis

NCAA South Regional semifinal

When: Tonight, 7:30

Where: Alamodome, San Antonio


Records: Texas A&M 27-6; Memphis 32-3.

History: Series is tied, 4-4. They haven't met since 1966-67.

How they got here: A&M, the third seed, beat Penn, 68-52, and Louisville , 72-69. Memphis, seeded second, beat North Texas, 73-58, and Nevada, 78-62.

Coaches: Billy Gillespie is 70-25 in 3 years at A&M, 100-57 in five seasons overall; John Calipari is 180-62 in 7 years at Memphis, 373-133 in 15 seasons overall.

Three things A&M must do:

1. Bring the crowd into it early and often; the noise will be on the Aggies' side, especially if there are 30,000 in the house .

2. They've had a good inside presence all season, but they've been known to get into foul trouble. Make Memphis account for what's going on in the low post and it should open things up along the perimeter.

3. Keep doing what got them here. They defend the arc as well as anyone, and they make you pay from that range at the other end. They are fundamentally sound. Any team that won at Kansas must have a clue.

Three things Memphis must do:

1. The Tigers have to hope that they can get something out of Chris Douglas-Roberts, who injured an ankle in the Nevada game. The 6-6 sophomore guard is the team's top scorer, at 15.4 ppg. That's not easy to replace.

2. Try to get on top early. Not that they can't come back if they had to, but why make it difficult? One of the few knocks on the Tigers is the schedule. Conference USA ain't what it used to be, so they haven't been involved in many tight games.

3. Draw on their experience. Cal has obviously been here before, having nearly won a national title at Massachusetts a decade ago. And the Tigers made it to the Final Eight last March. Make A&M start thinking about where they are and what's on the line.

What to expect: I picked A&M to come out of this region so I can't back off now, but it'll be close. Calipari knows what he's doing, but Gillespie might be the Coach of the Year.

- Mike Kern


Pittsburgh vs. UCLA

NCAA West Regional Semifinal

When: Tonight, 9:40.

Where: HP Pavilion, San Jose

TV/Radio: CBS3/WPEN (950-AM)

Records: Pittsburgh 29-7; UCLA 28-5.

History: UCLA leads the series, 5-1. Pittsburgh picked up its only win in the series the last time the two met in 1992.

How they got here: UCLA beat No. 15 Weber State, 70-42, and No. 7 Indiana, 54-49. Pittsburgh beat No. 14 Wright State, 79-58, and No. 11 VCU, 84-79, in overtime.

Coaches: Ben Howland is 89-40 in 4 years at UCLA, 257-139 overall. Jamie Dixon is 105-29 in 4 years at Pittsburgh.

Three things UCLA must do:

1. Stay interested for 40 minutes. The Bruins looked very average in a win over Indiana, most by their own doing. This should be a very hungry team after losing in the national championship game last season.

2. Get everyone involved at the offensive end. When they rely too much on Arron Afflalo, and he's not hitting, they get stagnant. Darren Collison is great when the team is out and running and he's distributing or scoring himself.

3. Get some offense from inside. Pittsburgh has a wonderful inside game at the offensive end. It might be a good idea for the Bruins to make the Panthers work on defense.

Three things Pitt must do:

1. Make this an East Coast game, not a West Coast one. The Panthers are a typically rugged Big East team. The more banging the better. Aaron Gray thrives on contact.

2. Slow the game down. The more Gray has to get quickly up and down the court with a gimpy ankle, the worse for Pitt. The Panthers will have to limit UCLA's shots and really concentrate on pounding the ball inside.

3. Realize early it belongs on the court with UCLA. Dixon is a Howland disciple, taking over the program from Howland when he went to UCLA. He'll have the Panthers prepared, they just have to believe they can hang.

What to expect: This has been a chalk region with the top four seeds advancing this far, so we'll stay the course. When it gets to this point of the season, you need more than one way to slay an opponent. The Bruins have more weapons than Pittsburgh. A low-scoring, eight-point win for UCLA.

- Bob Cooney


Southern Illinois vs. Kansas

NCAA West Regional semifinal

When: Tonight, 7:10.

Where: HP Pavilion, San Jose.


Records: Southern Illinois 29-6; Kansas 32-4.

History: This is the first meeting.

How they got here: Kansas beat No. 16 Niagara 107-67 and No. 8 Kentucky 88-76. Southern Illinois beat No. 13 Holy Cross 61-51 and No. 5 Virginia Tech 63-48.

Coaches: Bill Self is 104-28 in 4 years at Kansas, 311-133 in 14 years overall. Chris Lowery is 78-25 in 3 years at Southern Illinois.

Three things Kansas must do:

1. Make the tempo theirs, which is to say fast, faster and fastest. This team's depth and athleticism is rivaled by few in this country not getting paid to play. When clicking on all cylinders, the Jayhawks are really fun to watch.

2. Crash the offensive glass. Southern Illinois will make anyone look bad offensively. The more easy buckets the Jayhawks can get, the better they'll be able to conquer that D.

3. Not allow second shots. You can't run if you don't rebound. The Jayhawks have decided height advantage over the Salukis, and it should lead to some easy transition baskets.

Three things Southern Illinois must do:

1. Establish some kind of inside presence on offense. The Salukis have to keep the Jayhawks honest defensively and not allow them to defend solely around the arc.

2. Score some points. True, the Salukis have allowed an opponent to score as many as 65 only five times this season, but Kansas can do that in its sleep. Holding the Jayhawks to 70 would be an accomplishment, so the Salukis will have to score a little.

3. Stay in the game early. Southern Illinois' relentless defense is ranked third nationally in scoring defense. Still, you get the feeling that if the Jayhawks explode early they may be merciless on the Salukis, who don't have the offensive firepower to fight back.

What to expect: If Kansas was a conventional powerhouse, meaning a great guard team or a great big team, Southern Illinois would have a Rockylike chance. But the Jayhawks are a 6-6 and 6-8 athletic-type team that presents matchup problems everywhere. It might take them a bit, maybe even a whole half, to figure out Southern Illinois, but they will. Figure Kansas by 10.

- Bob Cooney

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