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TODAY'S REGIONAL MATCHUPS

WEST: Oakland-Alameda County Stadium

UCLA (28-2) vs. Connecticut (28-4), 3:40 p.m.

How they got here: The Bruins routed No. 16 seed Florida International 92-56 to open the tournament, then survived a near-nightmare from Missouri, winning on a Tyus Edney layup at the buzzer 75-74 at Boise, Idaho. UCLA had no problem with Mississippi State 86-67 in the semifinals. UConn ripped Tennessee-Chattanooga 100-71 and stopped Cincinnati 96-91 at Salt Lake City, and had a surprisingly easy victory over No. 4 seed Maryland 99-89 in the semifinals.

What to watch for: The name of the game for both teams is transition. Don't look for much half-court offense. Both teams excel in pushing the ball up the floor and making opponents pay for errant jump shots. Edney (5-10) propels the Bruins express at point guard, while the brothers O'Bannon (Ed and Charles) lead the charge up front with George Zidek manning the paint. The Huskies counter with hot-shooting Donny Marshall and Ray Allen. Kevin Ollie (6-4) might be as quick as Edney, and 7-footer Travis Knight could give UConn the edge inside.

_ ANTHONY PEREZ

SOUTHEAST: Birmingham (Ala.)-Jefferson Civic Center

Kentucky (28-4) vs. North Carolina (27-5), 6 p.m.

How they got here: The Wildcats have been nearly perfect, routing Mount St. Mary's 113-67 and overpowering Tulane 82-60 in Memphis, Tenn., then crushing Arizona State 97-73 in Thursday's semifinal. The Tar Heels used strong second-half finishes to beat Murray State 80-70 and Iowa State 73-51 at Tallahassee, then topped Georgetown 74-64 behind a strong game from center Rasheed Wallace in the regional semifinals.

What to watch for: From the beginning of the tournament, critics have pointed to Carolina's unusual lack of depth as its eventual undoing. It hasn't been a factor so far, but that could change today. The country's best starting five might not be enough to stand up to Kentucky's relentless pressure defense. In the past, the Wildcats' reliance on a perimeter attack _ and their lack of a consistent inside game _ proved costly. But Kentucky no longer relies solely on three-point shooting. Mark Pope, Jared Prickett and Rodrick Rhodes are tough around the basket to complement an always potent outside game led by guard Tony Delk.

_ DAVID GLASER

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