MICHIGAN-CINCINNATI

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

POSITION-BY-POSITION MATCHUPS

* SMALL FORWARD

Cincinnati: Herb Jones, 6-4, 211, Sr.

Undersized, but don't underestimate him. Jones, most outstanding player of Midwest Regional, is Bearcats' top scorer (18.2 ppg) and rebounder (7.1 rpg), a relentless attacker at both ends. Explosive quickness to hole, but can also step outside and hit a three, as evidenced by his 42 percent shooting behind line. Plays hounding pressure defense all over court. Doesn't say much, but is team's emotional firebrand anyway. Used to have piranhas in a fish tank in his room. Got rid of them. Said they weren't aggressive enough.

Michigan: Ray Jackson, 6-6, 213, Fr.

Last of the heralded five freshmen to start, Jackson is versatile, quick and has emerged as defensive ace for Steve Fisher. Did stellar work in regional semis against Ohio State All-American Jimmy Jackson, who had nine turnovers and shot 9-for-21. Also had fine defensive effort against Oklahoma State. Doesn't shoot much (4.8 ppg) but when he does, it often goes in (55.1). The free-throw line? At 20-for-44 (45.5 percent), that's a different story.

EDGE: Jones

* POWER FORWARD

Cincinnati: Terry Nelson, 6-5, 213, Jr.

Coach Bob Huggins calls him Bearcats' premier post defender. Plays fewest minutes (14.1) of any starter, but has knack for making them count. Always around the ball, cheating in passing lanes, going for steals. Has done stand-up comedy routines in various clubs and aspires to be entertainer. Does dead-on impersonation of Huggins. If Michigan wants to slough off anybody, this is the guy: he doesn't even shoot three times a game.

Michigan: Chris Webber 6-9, 240, Fr.

A year ago, Webber was the most coveted prep player in the nation -- and he has proven why. First freshman ever to lead Big Ten in rebounding (9.9 rpg). Has phenomenal hands and inside moves, and also can step out and hit jumpers. Averages 2.6 blocks and dunks with as much joy as any man on earth. Had big effort (23 points, 11 rebounds, nine of 12 FGs) in victory over Ohio State. Does his share of showboating and gloating, beyond boundaries of normal freshman exuberance. Then again, there's a lot of talent to flaunt. About only thing he doesn't do well is shoot free throws (54-for-106, 51 percent).

EDGE: Webber

* CENTER

Cincinnati: Corie Blount, 6-10, 220, Jr.

Sleek, mobile pivotman who anchors back line of defense. Averages 6.3 rpg and 1.5 blocks per game. Named junior college Player of Year as All-American at Rancho Santiago (Calif.). Was 6-5 when he stopped playing ball after high school, and went to work at a K Mart. After growing six inches in one year, decided he'd give the game another try. Still developing physically and learning nuances of inside play, but has developed rapidly and could be huge force next season.

Michigan: Juwan Howard, 6-9, 242, Fr.

The meanest guy on the team, says Fabfellow Chris Webber. Howard has goatee and menacing countenance to prove it. First the Fabs to commit to Wolverines, in November 1990. Has deft moves around the basket. Coach Steve Fisher says he's best passing big man he's seen in his years at Michigan. Intense, fiery competitor who played large role in setting proper work ethic for Fabs, not allowing anyone to rest on reputation alone. Just turned 19. Looks about 30.

EDGE: Howard

* POINT GUARDS

Cincinnati: Norm Van Exel, 6-1, 171, Jr.

Became starting point guard 19 games ago, and chances are excellent Cincinnati wouldn't be here without him. Had 22 points and hit four of five three-pointers in regional final victory over Memphis State. Has been on fire throughout tourney (15.7 ppg, 31-for-46 FGs, 67.4 percent). A lefthander, he's a good penetrator who has developed into reliable three-point threat. Given rapid pace of team's games, Van Exel's turnover rate -- 1.5 per game -- is remarkable accomplishment. Named to all-regional team in Midwest.

Michigan: Jalen Rose, 6-8, 186, Fr.

Most outstanding player of Southeast Regional, Rose had 20 points and three steals, playing all 45 minutes in triumph over Ohio State. His size and savvy, not to mention his Michigan roots, have drawn inevitable comparisons with one Magic Johnson. Can get a little loose and wild with ball now and again, but overall, his maturation and improved decision-making have made this whole run possible. Had superb game against Duke, scoring all 18 of his points after halftime. A 49.4 percent shooter from floor, Rose's 573 points (17.9 ppg) make him school's highest scoring freshman ever. Has been in double figures in 31 of 32 Wolverines games.

EDGE: Rose

* SHOOTING GUARD

Cincinnati: Anthony Buford, 6-3, 196, Sr.

Versatile, supremely athletic guard, Buford can slash down lane or pull up behind stripe. Played for Huggins at Akron before following him to Cincinnati, and because of familiarity with coach's passion for aggressive play, has shown the way with all-out style of play, in practice as well as games. Named to all-regional team in Midwest. Has been in double figures in every game in tournament. Buford is Bearcats' top three-point shooter, and also leads team in steals.

Michigan: Jimmy King, 6-5, 194, Fr. (9.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

A solid player who has shown astonishing consistency for freshman. In four tourney games, has scored 15, 14, 15 and 15. Others get more ink, but this is not a guy to forget about. Actually is best three-point shooter on team (44 percent), and is 50 percent shooter over season. Hit seven of 10 against Ohio State. Had career-high 18 against Indiana near end of regular season. Mr. Basketball in Texas his senior year at East HS in

Plano. Fine jumper with quickness and anticipation to make him a big defensive pest. Was moved into starting lineup 19 games ago.

EDGE: Buford

* BENCHES

Cincinnati: Bearcats defense forces an average of 20.9 turnovers per game, and big reason is that Huggins has depth to keep shuttling in fresh bodies to maintain maximum defensive pressure. Bench has outscored opponents' bench in 23 of 33 games. G Tarrance Gibson gives maniacal defensive effort, which is why his specialty is coming in and trashing flow of opponent's offense. F Erik Martin is virtually sixth starter, averaging 21 minutes, putting up solid numbers (6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) in tourney.

Michigan: Emergence of the freshmen has consigned former starters such as G Michael Talley and F James Voskuhl to bench. Neither has made significant contributions of late, but on other hand, Michigan wouldn't even be here without 7-0 senior Eric Riley, perhaps best backup center in country. With Fabs foul-plagued in regional semifinal with Oklahoma State, Riley delivered 15 points and 10 boards in 26 minutes. Riley leads team in shooting percentage (59.8 percent), and looms as huge advantage against small Bearcats front line.

EDGE: Cincinnati

* COACHES

Cincinnati: Bob Huggins

In his third season, Huggins, 38, finalist for AP's Coach of Year, has directed Cincinnati to its best season in 30 years. Son of renowned Ohio HS coach Charles Huggins, he was a college head coach at 27. His teams have won 20 or more games in six of last seven years -- always with manic, swarming pressure defense. He preaches attack in all phases. Fitting, then, that he is constantly on verbal attack. Was suspended for ranting at a ref after DePaul game, and even was hospitalized with heart palpitations after game.

Michigan: Steve Fisher

Fisher is 11-1 in NCAA play, the best percentage (91.7 percent) of any coach in history. Led Wolverines to 1989 title over Seton Hall, this after being named interim head coach two days before tourney, when Bill Frieder took job at Arizona State. Used to hear that Fisher couldn't recruit. You don't hear it anymore. Done a splendid job nurturing his young, star-studded team, which played with uncommon poise in beating Ohio State to get here. In age of sideline maniacs, he's refreshing, low-key customer who prefers teaching to shrieking.

EDGE: Michigan

* PREDICTION: Michigan by four.

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