at the Alamodome, San Antonio
GAME 1: Minnesota (29-3) vs. Clemson (23-9).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Minnesota, the Big Ten champion and the top seed in the Midwest, beat No. 16 Southwest Texas State 78-46, then routed No. 9 Temple 76-57. No. 4 seed Clemson defeated No. 13 Miami, Ohio, 68-56, and No. 5 Tulsa 65-59.
COACHES: Minnesota _ Clem Haskins (199-140, 11th season; 300-213). Clemson _ Rick Barnes (55-33, third season; 183-119).
KEY PLAYERS: Minnesota _ Bobby Jackson, G, 6-1 Sr. (14.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.1 apg); Sam Jacobson, G/F, 6-6 Jr. (13.3 ppg); Eric Harris, G, 6-3 Jr. (11.7 ppg). Clemson _ Greg Buckner, F, 6-4 Jr. (15.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Terrell McIntyre, PG, 5-9 So. (13.3 ppg, 4.5 apg); Merl Code, G, 6-2 Sr. (11.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Defense. Both teams are aggressive and physical. In their meeting in the San Juan Shootout final Dec. 1, the Golden Gophers' guards pushed their counterparts far away from the basket and disrupted the Tigers' half-court offense. Minnesota won 75-65. If McIntrye and Code don't handle the pressure, Clemson, which has regained the intensity it had for much of the season, will struggle.
GAME 2: UCLA (23-7) vs. Iowa State (22-8).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 2 seed UCLA, the three-time Pac-10 champ, beat No. 15 Charleston Southern 109-75, then No. 7 Xavier 96-83. No. 6 Iowa State beat No. 11 Illinois State 69-57 and nipped No. 3 Cincinnati 67-66.
COACHES: UCLA _ Steve Lavin (23-7, first season). Iowa State _ Tim Floyd (69-28, third season; 231-111).
KEY PLAYERS: UCLA _ Charles O'Bannon, F, 6-5 Sr. (17.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg); J.R. Henderson, F, 6-9 Jr. (14.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg); Toby Bailey, G, 6-5 Jr. (13.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.9 apg). Iowa State _ Dedric Willoughby, G, 6-3 Sr. (18.3 ppg); Kelvin Cato, C, 6-11 Sr. (11.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.2 bpg); Kenny Pratt, F, 6-5 Sr. (14.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Bruins lack depth, but their top six are athletic and experienced; five players were on the 1995 championship team, including O'Bannon, Bailey and Cameron Dollar. They can play in the half court but prefer to run and score in transition. They have done the latter with remarkable success in the tournament, averaging 102.5 points. The key is how well the Cyclones, who have a virtually unheard of five senior starters, can dictate the tempo with their defense. They led the Big 12 in scoring defense and were ninth nationally, allowing an average of 59.9 points.
_ BRIAN LANDMAN
at San Jose Arena
GAME 1: Utah (28-3) vs. Stanford (22-7).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Stanford, the No. 6 seed after receiving an at-large bid, defeated No. 11 Oklahoma 80-67 and No. 3 Wake Forest 72-66. No. 2 Utah, the WAC tournament champ, beat No. 15 Navy 75-61 and No. 7 UNC-Charlotte 77-58.
COACHES: Utah _ Rick Majerus (179-54, eighth season; 278-106). Stanford _ Mike Montgomery (204-127, 11th season; 356-204).
KEY PLAYERS: Utah _ Keith Van Horn, F, 6-10 Sr. (22.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg); Michael Doleac, C, 6-11 Jr. (14.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg). Stanford _ Brevin Knight, G, 5-10 Sr. (15.5 ppg, 7.8 apg, 3.7 rpg); Tim Young, C, 7-1 Jr. (13.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg); Kris Weems G, 6-3 So. (11.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: The similarities should translate into a competitive game. Both are led by big-time players, Knight for Stanford and Van Horn for Utah. Both have depth but are young. Both stress defense and fundamentals. The game will hinge on how the Cardinal defense handles Van Horn and how the Utes shut down Knight.
GAME 2: Kentucky (32-4) vs. St. Joseph's (26-6).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 4 seed St. Joseph's, the Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament champ, defeated No. 13 Pacific 75-65 and No. 5 Boston College 81-77 in overtime. No. 1 Kentucky, the SEC tournament champ, beat No. 16 Montana 92-54 and No. 8 Iowa 75-69.
COACHES: St. Joseph's _ Phil Martelli (45-19, second season). Kentucky _ Rick Pitino (216-49, eighth season; 349-123).
KEY PLAYERS: St. Joseph's _ Arthur "Yah" Davis, G, 6-4 Fr. (14.7 ppg, 4.2 apg); Rashid Bey, G, 6-0 Jr. (14.7 ppg, 4.6 apg). Kentucky _ Ron Mercer, F, 6-7 So. (18.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Scott Padgett, F, 6-9 Sr. (9.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Anthony Epps, G, 6-2 Sr. (8.6 ppg, 4.9 apg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Lots of scoring and three-point shooting. The Hawks attempted a record 43 three-pointers in their victory over Boston College. Bey (37.9 percent), Davis (39.2 percent) and forward Duval Simmonds (41.6 percent) are expert marksmen from behind the arc, and sixth man Terrell Myers has 65 threes this season. Kentucky, of course, is no stranger to three-point shooting, having hit 36.9 percent of its attempts. The Wildcats are 16-2 without Derek Anderson, the SEC's leading scorer when he was lost for the season in January with a torn knee ligament. Mercer, Prickett and reserve Cameron Mills have stepped up their play. Mills has shot 61.9 percent in the past six games, 64.5 percent from three-point range.
_ ERNEST HOOPER