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Tucson, Ariz.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2000

Thursday, Sunday

  • GAMES: No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Dayton; No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Winthrop; No. 7 Louisville vs. No. 10 Gonzaga; No. 2 St. John's vs. No. 15 Northern Arizona.

  • BEST PLAYER: Oklahoma forward Eduardo Najera averages 18.7 points and 9.5 rebounds, but his greatest contribution doesn't show up in the statistics. The 6-8 senior plays as hard as anyone in the country, even through pain, and his violent collision with Michigan State's Mateen Cleaves was perhaps the lasting memory of last year's tournament. His 21 second-half points Saturday rallied the Sooners past Texas and into the Big 12 title game.

  • BEST UPSET POSSIBILITIES: Led by 6-10 senior center Mark Ashman, Dayton had some impressive wins this season and is a potential sleeper. The Flyers upset Kentucky at home and stopped New Mexico's 41-game home winning streak, and at 22-8 had their best record since the 1967 team that went 21-5 and lost to UCLA in the NCAA championship game. A win over an uninspiring Purdue team wouldn't be a terrible shock. The Boilermakers were in the middle of the pack in most of the Big Ten's offensive and defensive statistics, thriving instead on chemistry and unselfishness. Under coach Gene Keady, they have rarely gone deep into the NCAAs.

  • BEST STORY LINE: Gonzaga was last year's Cinderella team. The last at-large team to earn a bid, the Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight last season with stunning wins over Minnesota, Stanford and Florida before a West Region final loss to eventual national champion Connecticut. This year they're in as the West Coast Conference tournament champions. They return most of the starters from last year's team and won't sneak up on anyone.

  • WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "We pretty much know what it takes, we know what's going to have to happen during a tournament like that. We've got to come out, play hard and be physical. We have to be happy warriors." -- Mike Robinson, Purdue senior forward.

  • ADVANCING: St. John's, Oklahoma

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