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Updated: Friday, March 21, 2003 9:05 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL PREVIEW
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No. 9 Utah (24-7) vs No. 8 Oregon (23-9) First round Midwest Region
UTAH UTES
Utah Utes
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OREGON DUCKS
Oregon Ducks
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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Eighth-seeded Oregon tries to begin another fruitful run in the NCAA Tournament on Friday when it meets No. 9 Utah in the first round of the Midwest Region.

Oregon (23-9) had an up and down season but turned in a solid weekend of basketball as it captured the Pac-10 Conference tournament with a 74-66 victory over Southern California. Luke Ridnour scored 18 points and added nine assists and was named tournament MVP.

Last season, Oregon was seeded second in the Midwest and reached the regional final before losing to Kansas. The Ducks never have won games in consecutive years in the NCAA Tournament.

Ridnour could be playing his final games with the Ducks after averaging 19.9 points and 6.7 assists. The 6-2 point guard may bypass his senior season to go to the NBA.

Utah (24-7) received an at-large berth after tying Brigham Young for the regular-season title in the Mountain West Conference. The Runnin' Utes have split their last six games after winning 16 of 17.

Utah will be shorthanded as senior forward Britton Johnsen will miss the game while recovering from mononucleosis. A member of the 1998 Final Four team, Johnsen is averaging 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Johnsen has sat out the last two games and did not accompany the Utes to the Mountain West Conference tournament, but he has not been ruled out of a second-round game should Utah advance.

Coach Rick Majerus had never lost a first-round game until last season's 75-56 defeat to Indiana.

Majerus has a strong center in Portland transfer Tim Frost, who averages 13.1 points. Smooth small forward Nick Jacobson chips in 12.9 per game.

This is the 13th meeting between Oregon and Utah, who have split the first 12. The last meeting was a 95-81 victory by the Utes on December 6, 1990.

The winner will face Kentucky or IUPUI in Sunday's second round.


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