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Blackouts a possibility for the West

The rolling blackouts that hit southern California for the first time this week could interrupt one of the NCAA games scheduled Thursday, though officials say it is unlikely.

"We're in a very stable situation," said Mike O'Donnell, assistant general manager for the 650,000-square-foot Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.

Two games in the West Region semifinals are scheduled Thursday, beginning shortly before 8 p.m. EST. The region final is Saturday.

Anaheim has its own municipal utility, which has separate long-term contracts with power generators. Unlike other parts of the state, it does not draw power from the two cash-strapped utilities.

But Anaheim Public Power is still on the statewide power grid and must shut power to its customers if called on by the California Independent System Operator, which controls the grid.

Most of southern California has been exempt from the blackouts that struck the north in January. But for the first time this week, parts of communities such as Beverly Hills, Long Beach and San Diego lost power for an hour at a time when electricity supplies ran critically low.

In Anaheim, about 3,500 customers lost power Tuesday _ the first time that community has had blackouts.

But the utility said emergency service providers, such as fire stations, and large venues that hold more than 5,000 people, such as the Pond and Disneyland, are low on the list of facilities to go dark.

Kevin Starkey, director of operations at the Arrowhead Pond, said a diesel-powered generator would go on less than 20 seconds after a total blackout. The generator is designed to power emergency lights and would not power the entire arena.

GEORGETOWN VS. MARYLAND: Fans near Washington _ and anybody west of Ohio _ won't be able to see the region matchup because it is in the same time slot as Southern California-Kentucky. A CBS spokesman said Georgetown-Maryland will be televised to only 29 percent of the nation.

East

KENTUCKY: Because Kentucky can go deep on its bench, the Wildcats believe they can go deep into this tournament.

Led by Marquis Estill's career-high 22 points and surprising interior defense, the bench helped the Wildcats beat Iowa in Saturday's second round. Conveniently, it seems, UK faces a Southern California team that relies primarily on ironmen starters.

Asked if he believed USC was vulnerable to a deep team, UK coach Tubby Smith said, "I hope so. That's our strength."

Southern Cal coach Henry Bibby downplayed his team's lack of depth. "We've played six guys basically all year," Bibby said.

But, Bibby said, the Trojans have serviceable players in reserve. USC proved that in its second-round game. When point guard Brandon Granville fouled out midway through the second half, junior college transfer Robert Hutchinson came off the bench and hit five of his six free throws down the stretch to help seal a 74-71 win over Boston College.

"So we can go deep if we have to," Bibby said.

Midwest

ILLINOIS: Looking at the bracket in San Antonio, Texas, coach Bill Self admits to wondering if he overslept by a week.

"This region would make a good Final Four," said Self, whose Illini are the No. 1 seed in the only region where the seedings have held.

To get to the Final Four, Illinois will have to beat fourth-seeded Kansas on Friday and follow up with a win Sunday over second-seeded Arizona or third-seeded Mississippi. But Self said that does not make his team's road to Minneapolis tougher than the tournament's other top-seeded teams _ Michigan State, Duke and Stanford.

"There will be more hype that goes with this one because you've got the top four seeds," Self said. "On paper, certainly, our region and the East look the toughest, but once you get here, they are all good."

South

TICKETS: Looking for tickets for some March Madness this weekend? Head to Atlanta. The Georgia Dome has plenty of seats available, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. More than 40,000 spectators attended several sessions of the ACC tournament at the dome two weeks ago, but only 24,000 tickets have been sold for this weekend's games. Florida and North Carolina, both in relatively close proximity to Atlanta and projected to make the Sweet 16, were upset in the second round, but organizers insist they are not disappointed with Gonzaga, Penn State, Temple and Michigan State. Despite a dip in projected ticket sales _ the four participating schools are an average of 1,186 miles away _ they like the matchups from a competitive standpoint.

Up next:RUTGERS

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