Midwest Regional

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The Sweet 16: Midwest

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Posted: Thursday March 18, 1999 06:16 PM

Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl previews Friday's Midwest Regional games in St. Louis.

Kentucky vs. Miami (Ohio), 10:15 p.m. ET

For Kentucky to Win: After barely surviving against Kansas, the Wildcats need to get some fullcourt pressure working early against Miami. That could frazzle the upstarts, who have never played before on this stage -- the same one on which Kentucky is so comfortable.

For Miami to Win: The RedHawks need to support Wally Szczerbiak the way they did in their Round 2 shocker against Utah. In that game, guard Jason Stewart opened up the lane with four three-pointers and forward John Estick had a career-high 18 points, thanks mostly to his defender cheating toward Szczerbiak.

Key Matchup: Szczerbiak vs. the Kentucky defense. If Kentucky doesn't double-team him, the Wildcats are in for a (Wally) world of hurt. If they do, Szczerbiak has a way of finding open teammates or still scoring himself (he had 24 points on only 11 field-goal attempts in the win against Utah).

Player to Watch: Kentucky point guard Wayne Turner. The guy has the ugliest shot in college basketball, but he somehow wills it in. Nobody in the NCAAs has more tournament experience: If Kentucky wins two this weekend, Turner will reach his fourth Final Four in four years.

Prediction: Never underestimate experience, and the three Kentucky seniors (Turner, Scott Padgett and Heshimu Evans) have a ton of it. This time of year it's important to have as many options as possible, and Kentucky just has too many for Miami.

Michigan State vs. Oklahoma, 7:55 p.m. ET

For Michigan State to Win: The Spartans played just well enough to beat Ole Miss in the second round. Oklahoma will be more difficult. The Spartans need to shake their propensity for slow starts and get out of the blocks well, or they'll be in for a dogfight against the Sooners' tough D.

For Oklahoma to Win: For the Sooners to pull off the upset, forward Eduardo Najera has to play as well as he did against UNC Charlotte in the second round (20 points, 15 boards). So does guard Eric Martin, who hit six of nine three-pointers in that game and provided a crucial second option for Oklahoma's offense.

Key Matchup: Martin vs. Spartans guard Jason Klein. The team with the most prolific long-range bomber will probably win.

Player to Watch: Will Michigan State point guard Mateen Cleaves have his 'A' game for an entire 40 minutes? He hasn't so far.

Prediction: Despite not having a starter taller than 6'9", the Spartans always own the boards. Look for Michigan State's sixth man and leading scorer, Morris Peterson, to break out of his mini-slump and help Michigan State to a victory.

 
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