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The Baltimore Sun


No. 2 Memphis vs. No. 3 Texas A&M;

Time -- 7:27

Records -- Memphis 32-3; Texas A&M; 27-6

Line -- Texas A&M; by 3

How they got here -- Memphis def. No. 15 North Texas, 73-58, and No. 7 Nevada, 78-62; Texas A&M; def. No. 14 Pennsylvania, 68-52, and No. 6 Louisville, 72-69.

The buzz -- Memphis comes in having won 24 in a row, but the Tigers haven't played anyone with the defensive intensity of the Aggies. Tigers G Chris Douglas-Roberts, the team's leading scorer, suffered an ankle sprain against Nevada; if he plays, he won't be 100 percent. Memphis wants an up-tempo, free-flowing game, but Texas A&M; will look to slow it down. The Aggies also will be as physical as possible, especially with Memphis' perimeter players. Texas A&M; has four players who average in double figures, but the only one who truly scares opposing teams is senior G Acie Law IV. Texas A&M; needs guards Josh Carter and Dominique Kirk to be at least adequate from three-point range. Memphis has better depth than the Aggies, who don't want to go more than seven deep. Memphis is abysmal from the free-throw line (61.8 percent).

The pick -- Texas A&M.;

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 5 Tennessee

Time, TV -- 9:57 (approximate), chs. 13, 9

Records -- Ohio State 32-3; Tennessee 24-10

Line -- Ohio State by 5

How they got here -- Ohio State def. No. 16 Central Connecticut State, 78-57, and No. 9 Xavier, 78-71 (OT); Tennessee def. No. 12 Long Beach State, 121-86, and No. 4 Virginia, 77-74.

The buzz -- These teams met Jan. 13 in Columbus, with Ohio State prevailing, 68-66. The Volunteers would prefer the game be in the high 70s or low 80s, and they'll attempt to force the tempo with their pressing defense. Still, to pull the upset, Vols G Chris Lofton has to hit his outside shots. The Vols also need another scorer (JaJuan Smith? Ramar Smith?) to provide some offense. A potential trouble spot for Tennessee is its poor free-throw shooting (65.7 percent). Tennessee's young big men are going to have all sorts of problems with Buckeyes C Greg Oden. But if the Vols worry too much about Oden, Buckeyes perimeter players Jamar Butler, Daequan Cook and Ron Lewis could be dangerous from three-point range.

The pick -- Ohio State.


No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 S. Illinois

Time, TV -- 7:10, chs. 13, 9

Records -- Kansas 32-4; Southern Illinois 29-6.

Line -- Kansas by 9

How they got here -- Kansas def. No. 16 Niagara, 107-67, and No. 8 Kentucky, 88-76; Southern Illinois def. No. 13 Holy Cross, 61-51, and No. 5 Virginia Tech, 63-48.

The buzz -- Kansas, which is supremely athletic, wants to put its supreme athleticism to good use and run all night. Southern Illinois wants to slow the tempo and turn the game into a defensive-minded affair. Can either impose its will on the other? Kansas has lost four times; in each one, the Jayhawks scored 71 or fewer. Southern Illinois allowed more than 70 points once - and it lost that game. Kansas is loaded on the perimeter, and star F Julian Wright has freakish athletic skills for a man his size (6 feet 8, 225 pounds). Southern Illinois likely will be without starting F Matt Shaw (ankle), a potentially devastating injury for a team that starts three guards and whose best reserve big man (Tony Boyle) plays about 12 minutes per game. The Salukis beat Virginia Tech without Shaw, but the Jayhawks aren't the Hokies.

The pick -- Kansas.

No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh

Time -- 9:40 (approximate)

Records -- UCLA 28-5; Pittsburgh 29-7.

Line -- UCLA by 3

How they got here -- UCLA def. No. 15 Weber State, 70-42, and No. 7 Indiana, 54-49; Pittsburgh def. No. 14 Wright State, 79-58, and No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth, 84-79 (OT).

The buzz -- UCLA coach Ben Howland and Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon are close friends - Howland's daughter, Meredith, attends school at Pitt and often eats dinner with the Dixons - and neither will be surprised by what the other wants to do tonight. The Bruins are more athletic, but they're quite comfortable with a slower pace. To win, Pitt must rely on its physical defense and 7-foot C Aaron Gray. Pitt's perimeter players are solid, but the Panthers are going to have trouble keeping up with Bruins point guard Darren Collison. Slowing Collison and trying to keep G Arron Afflalo under wraps will be a priority for Pitt. UCLA will throw a variety of defensive looks at Gray.

The pick -- UCLA.

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