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Nashville, Tenn.

By ROGER MILLS, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2000

Friday, Sunday

  • GAMES: No. 2 Cincinnati vs. No. 15 UNC Wilmington; No. 7 Tulsa vs. No. 10 UNLV; No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 14 Appalachian State; No. 6 Miami vs. No. 11 Arkansas.

  • BEST PLAYER: Given the absence of Bearcats star Kenyon Martin (broken leg), this is a real tossup. The Buckeyes' Scoonie Penn (15.4 ppg) and Michael Redd (17.2 ppg), Miami's Johnny Hemsley (18 ppg) and Mario Bland (12.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg), Cincinnati's Pete Michael (13.4 ppg) and Appalachian State's Rufus Leach (16.6 ppg), the second highest-scoring sixth man in the nation, create a logjam. But in the end, deep NCAA experience and the fact that he handles the ball on almost every play make Penn mightier than the sword.

  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: Who knows if this will be considered much of an upset, but the Seahawks of UNC-Wilmington have a chance to topple the devastated Bearcats. Cincinnati has seen early exits in the tournament and simply isn't the same team without the Grand Kenyon. The Bearcats' loss to Saint Louis in the second round of the C-USA tournament, the same Saint Louis team they devoured by 43 earlier in the season, is proof to some that coach Bob Huggins' crew is snakebitten.

  • BEST STORY LINE: Written off as dead three weeks ago and considered NIT-bound just seven days ago, the Razorbacks are in Hog Heaven. That's not a good thing for Leonard Hamilton's Hurricanes. Arkansas, playing very close to home, enters the tournament having won four straight. Can you spell dangerous?

  • WHAT TO EXPECT: Coach Bill Self has done a fine job with the Golden Hurricane, and it should provide some entertainment. Remember, one of Tulsa's wins this season was over Tennessee. Ohio State easily could have been a No. 1 seed, particularly with its tested backcourt. With Cincinnati not likely to challenge, the Buckeyes should be playing in the Sweet 16.

  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "I think we opened a lot of people's eyes. We're not pushovers. They've got to take us seriously." -- Razorbacks freshman guard Joe Johnson on the team's surging confidence.

  • ADVANCING: Ohio State and Tulsa.

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