Civic Center, Birmingham
GAME 1: Kansas (34-1) vs. Arizona (21-9).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 1 seed Kansas beat No. 16 Jackson State 78-64 and No. 8 Purdue 75-61. No. 4 Arizona came from behind to beat No. 13 South Alabama 65-57 and defeated No. 12 College of Charleston 73-69.
COACHES: Kansas _ Roy Williams (247-57, ninth season). Arizona _ Lute Olson (337-110, 14th season; 529-202).
KEY PLAYERS: Kansas _ Raef LaFrentz, F, 6-11 Jr. (18.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg); Paul Pierce, F, 6-7 So. (16.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg); Jacque Vaughn, G, 6-1 Sr. (10.2 ppg, 6.2 apg). Arizona _ Michael Dickerson, F, 6-5 Jr. (20.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Miles Simon, G, 6-5 Jr. (17.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.5 apg); Mike Bibby, G, 6-1 Fr. (12.7 ppg, 5.4 apg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: A grand game between two outstanding point guards. Vaughn brings senior leadership and a deft touch when it comes to distributing the ball to the Jayhawks' cadre of great players. Bibby, the son of former NBA star Henry Bibby, has lived up to the hype that followed him to the Tucson campus, but if he fails to break down the Kansas defense, the Wildcats will have a long night. Another key matchup is Arizona's 6-11 center, A.J. Bramlett, against LaFrentz.
GAME 2: Providence (23-11) vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga (24-10).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 10 seed Providence, defeated No. 7 Marquette 81-59 and No. 2 Duke 98-87. No. 14 UT-Chattanooga defeated No. 3 Georgia 73-70 and No. 6 Illinois 75-63.
COACHES: Providence _ Pete Gillen (58-36, third season). UT-Chattanooga _ Mark McCarthy (224-111, 12th season).
KEY PLAYERS: Providence _ Austin Croshere, F, 6-9 Sr. (17.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg); Derrick Brown, F, 6-6 Sr. (16.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg); God Shammgod, G, 6-0 So. (10.3 ppg, 6.6 apg). UTC _ Johnny Taylor, F, 6-8 Sr. (16.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg); Willie Young, G, 6-2 Sr. (14.2 ppg); Chris Mims, F, 6-7 Sr. (10.7 ppg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: A Providence victory, unless Chattanooga can pull off a third surprise. Taylor, an all-around player, will be key for the Mocs, but the Friars have an all-around team. Croshere can play inside and outside, and Brown can be a force inside, as evidenced by his career-high 33 points against Duke. Providence's problem has been defense; it was 12th in the Big East in field-goal percentage defense. Still, it should have enough firepower to shut down Chattanooga.
_ ERNEST HOOPER
at the Carrier Dome,
GAME 1: Louisville (25-8) vs. Texas (18-11).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 6 seed Louisville beat No. 11 Massachusetts 65-57 and No. 3 New Mexico 64-63. No. 10 Texas, a controversial at-large invitee, beat No. 7 Wisconsin 71-58 and hung on against underdog No. 15 Coppin State 82-81.
COACHES: Louisville _ Denny Crum (612-232, 26th season). Texas _ Tom Penders (194-92, ninth season; 464-301).
KEY PLAYERS: Louisville _ DeJuan Wheat, PG, 6-0 Sr. (18.1 ppg, 4.1 apg); Alvin Sims, G/F, 6-4 Sr. (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg); Alex Sanders, F/C, 6-7 So. (9.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg). Texas _ Reggie Freeman, G, 6-6 Sr. (22.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 4.1 apg); Kris Clack, G, 6-5 So. (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg); Brandy Perryman, G, 6-2 Jr. (9.4 ppg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Perhaps this will be a replay of the teams' meeting Jan. 19 at Austin. Louisville erased a 15-point second-half deficit, forced overtime on a three-pointer by Eric Johnson at the buzzer and won 85-78. But just try to figure out the Cardinals. They have little depth and are Crum's worst-shooting team, hitting 41.5 percent. Yet they have won five games in overtime and are 11-4 against the NCAA field. The Longhorns fare as Freeman does. He slumped offensively toward the end of the regular season but led all players with 53 points in the first two rounds of the NCAAs.
GAME 2: North Carolina (26-6) vs. California (23-8).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Top-seeded North Carolina struggled to beat No. 16 Fairfield 82-74 and routed No. 9 Colorado 73-56. The No. 5 Golden Bears held off No. 12 Princeton 55-52 and beat No. 4 Villanova 75-68.
COACHES: North Carolina _ Dean Smith (877-253, 36th season). California _ Ben Braun (23-8, first season; 208-140).
KEY PLAYERS: North Carolina _ Antawn Jamison, F, 6-8 So. (19.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg); Shammond Williams, G, 6-2 Jr. (14.2 ppg; 4.4 apg); Serge Zwikker, C, 7-3 Sr. (11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg). California _ Randy Duck, G, 6-2 Sr. (12.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg); Alfred Grigsby, F, 6-9 Sr. (7.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Tony Gonzalez, F, 6-6 Jr. (6.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg).
WHAT TO EXPECT: The Tar Heels have won 14 straight thanks largely to the improved play of sophomore guard Vince Carter and freshman point guard Ed Cota. Carter, however, pulled a groin muscle against Colorado and could not return. He should play against Cal, and the Heels need his ability to create shots and hit the three-pointer. The Golden Bears have improved their defense and rebounding out of necessity since senior guard Ed Gray, the nation's second-leading scorer, was lost with a broken foot in the last regular-season game. Gonzalez, an All-America tight end projected as a first-round NFL pick, has started in place of Gray and added size and muscle _ he's 6 feet 6, 250 pounds _ as well as offense.
_ BRIAN LANDMAN