At Birmingham, Ala.
Time: 5 p.m. today
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Line: Arizona by 3
Conference record: Arizona went 11-7 and finished fifth in the Pac-10. Providence was 10-8 in the Big East 7, and was the fourth seed in the conference tournament.
Ranking: Arizona is No. 15 in the Associated Press poll; Providence is unranked.
NCAA record: Arizona is 20-15 with two Final Four appearances. Providence is 14-13 with two trips to the Final Four.
Coaches: Lute Olson is 338-110 in 14 seasons at Arizona, 530-202 overall, including one year at Long Beach State and nine at Iowa. Pete Gillen is 59-36 in three seasons at Providence, 261-111 overall, including nine years at Xavier.
Key matchups: Providence forward Austin Croshere is one of the hottest players in the tournament, but Bennett Davison's specialty is taking All-America types off their games, witness the defensive jobs he turned in against Utah's Keith Van Horn and Kansas' Raef La- Frentz. Providence center Ruben Garces has played all season with a stress fracture in his right shin, and he fractured the middle finger on his left hand in the Big East tournament. He may be the grittiest player in the tournament, but A. J. Bramlett has gotten better every game for Arizona. Olson said that Mike Bibby is too short to check the Friars' taller wings and he must try to stop the penetration of God Shammgod, but 6-5 forward Michael Dickerson has been drawing -- and usually stopping -- the opposition's point all season.
What Arizona needs to do to win: Davison and Bramlett have to continue to play like warriors.
What Providence needs to do to win: Shammgod must get the ball to the shooters in the right places, no easy task against one of the nation's quickest teams.
Bottom line: Arizona is a Pac-10 team, but despite a sleek look, the Wildcats can bang with anyone from the Big East.
Pub Date: 3/23/97