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Salt Lake City, Utah

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2000


Thursday, Saturday

  • GAMES: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Jackson State; No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Fresno State; No. 5 Texas vs. No. 12 Indiana State; No. 4 LSU vs. No. 13 Southeast Missouri State.

  • BEST PLAYER: If he's playing, Wildcats center Loren Woods easily could emerge as the top player in this subregional. Woods averages 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds and could prove problematic for defensive matchups. He's quicker and taller than Texas center Chris Mihm. But a healthy Mihm is likely a top-three pick in the NBA draft and if the rumors about Woods not playing in the tournament are true, no one is going to stop Mihm.

  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITY: It would only be considered a slight upset considering the seedings but coach Jerry Tarkanian and Fresno State are in a strong position to knock off Wisconsin. This is a classic war of contrasting coaching styles but considering that the Bulldogs haven't been to the tournament since 1984, they might be just a little hungrier.

  • BEST STORY LINE: Arizona won it all in 1997 and the Wildcats are going to try to do it again on the the strength of Jason Gardner, a freshman point guard. No longer can Gardner -- who has ample support from fellow freshman sensation Gilbert Arenas -- be considered a first-year player. After a grueling Pac-10 season, Gardner is a proven talent and with Woods' health still in question, a lot will be expected of him.

  • WHAT TO EXPECT: Even without Woods, the Wildcats are overloaded with talent. The tournament could become the coming-out party for Arenas, a shooting guard who hasn't seen a jumper he can't take, and forward Luke Walton, son of former NBA great Bill Walton, who has come into his own.

  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "That information has not reached me yet. (Team trainer) Ed Orr is right here and Ed certainly would have told me if he's gotten the final report from the doctors, unless somehow or another the committee had information directly from the doctors." -- Arizona coach Lute Olsen on rumors that Woods' back problems will sideline him for the tournament.

  • ADVANCING: Arizona and Fresno State.

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