NCAA Regional semifinal previews

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Matt Kavanaugh has watched over the past several years as mid-major programs like Butler, VCU and George Mason have made runs to the Final Four.

The 6-foot-10 Dayton center said the Flyers would be a good addition to that list.

But another upstart double-digit seed stands in the way of that dream.

No. 11 Dayton (25-10) faces No. 10 Stanford (23-12) on Thursday in the Sweet 16 of the South Region with the winner earning a shot at playing for a spot in the Final Four.

"Every year there's that one team in the like final eight, Final Four that no one expected to be there, and that's been our mantra like `Why can't that be us this year?" Kavanaugh said.

Both have reached this point by winning games against favored opponents. Dayton toppled Ohio State and Syracuse. Stanford foiled New Mexico and Kansas.

Now they're into the second weekend of the tournament and ready to prove the early upsets were no fluke.

Stanford forward Josh Huestis says his team has never considered itself a long shot. The Cardinal have had plenty of big wins this season -- even before the NCAA tournament -- beating teams like UConn, Oregon and UCLA during the regular season.

"Coach (Johnny Dawkins) always tells us that there are only a handful of teams that come into this tournament thinking they have a chance to win," Huestis said. "The rest of them are just happy to be here. We pride ourselves on being a team that believes we can win this whole thing."

Stanford certainly looked capable when it stunned Kansas last weekend. The Cardinal defense held the Jayhawks' freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins to just four points on 1 of 6 shooting.

Dawkins said the postseason has brought out the best in his veteran team, which starts three juniors and two seniors.

"What we've done very well the last several games is we defended at a high, high level every possession," Dawkins said. "We always talk about the importance of defending every possession. It's one thing to say that -- it's another thing to go out and execute it."

Dayton hopes to use its deep bench to wear down Stanford. Flyers' coach Archie Miller uses an 11-man rotation to keep players fresh for the team's aggressive defense, which smothered Ohio State and Syracuse during the opening weekend.

Dayton's balanced offense is led by 6-4 guard Jordan Sibert, who is averaging 13.1 points and shooting nearly 51 percent in March. But the Flyers' production is liable to come from anywhere -- 11 different players have scored in double figures this season.

Stanford is heavily reliant on just a six-man rotation. Chasson Randle, the Cardinal's star 6-foot-2 guard who scored 23 points against New Mexico and 13 against Kansas, has played all 40 minutes in both games.

But Miller said NCAA tournament games -- with their frequent TV timeouts -- would mitigate much of that advantage.

"I'm not sure if depth's really an issue," Miller said. "I think, once you get late in the year, you're fresh. You're not talking about it a lot. When you're on this stage, it is adrenaline."

Stanford's main advantage over Dayton is its size. Of the Cardinal's six most-used players, five of them stand at least 6-6 and three are 6-10 or taller. Miller acknowledged Stanford would present some matchup problems, but was confident his team could handle it.

Dayton is the Atlantic 10's lone representative in the Sweet 16 after six teams received a tournament bid. The Flyers have won 12 of their last 14 games.

"Ohio State was big. Syracuse was really big," Miller said. "We've played Gonzaga and Cal and Baylor. They were big. It's not really about playing against big people. It's about executing your system versus the different styles you play against."

BAYLOR VS. WISCONSIN, 7:47 P.M.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Baylor and Wisconsin have never met in a men's basketball game, and the unpredictable Bears have little in common with the disciplined Badgers at first glance.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan and Baylor's Scott Drew both recognized one big similarity as their teams prepared for their matchup just down the street from Disneyland.

Although they arrive from different directions, they both know what to do when they get to March.

Sixth-seeded Baylor (26-11) and second-seeded Wisconsin (28-7) went through workouts Wednesday at Honda Center before they play Thursday for a spot in the West Regional final.

While the building is unfamiliar, the stakes are not: The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, while the Bears have made it three times in the last five. Those are remarkable runs of consistency for any program, let alone two teams without huge national profiles and the resulting recruiting advantages.

Past postseason success is fine, but the coaches know it could fade in the face of Baylor's baffling zone defense or Wisconsin's famed intensity.

"I think every coach would tell you they would rather have that experience than not have it," Drew said. "But it doesn't guarantee you anything. That's what makes March Madness. Even if you play well, it might be your last game because there are so many great teams and great players."

The teams studied their unfamiliar opponents during the break and emerged with mutual respect. The Bears admire the tenacity displayed all winter by Wisconsin, which beat five of its seven Top-25 opponents while playing one of the NCAA's toughest schedules.

UCLA VS. FLORIDA, 9:45 P.M.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Scottie Wilbekin has defended the 6-foot-6 Harrison twins of Kentucky and seen his share of tall guards during his four seasons at Florida.

Yet nothing really has prepared the Southeastern Conference player of the year for UCLA's Kyle Anderson.

The sophomore plays point guard for UCLA despite being 6-9, tall enough to play forward or center on any other team. Anderson can stretch his arms out 7-3, allowing him to simply pass over or around any defender in his path helping the Bruins average 81.5 points a game.

Wilbekin will be giving up 7 inches Thursday night to Anderson in the South Regional semifinal at the FedExForum.

"Yes, it's going to be tough," Wilbekin said. "He's definitely a unique cover."

The Gators have been one of the nation's stingiest defenses all season and now must slow down Anderson and the Bruins in the South Regional semifinal Thursday night to extend the longest winning streak in school history to a 29th game. Another win puts the NCAA tournament's overall top seed into a fourth straight regional final.

"Every game you get a chance to win, it becomes more difficult," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "It becomes more challenging, it becomes harder."

The Gators (34-2) have won with one of the nation's stingiest defenses all season, holding opponents to an average of 57.5 points a game that puts them third nationally. They like to press while smothering teams, and the Gators have held 26 opponents to 61 points or fewer. They advanced to their fourth straight regional semifinal by holding Pittsburgh to 45 points last weekend.

In Steve Alford's first season, the fourth-seeded Bruins (28-8) scoring more points than they have in years. Alford said they will have to keep scoring against Florida.

"If the game's in the 50s, that's probably not favoring UCLA," Alford said. "We need the thing to be a little bit more up-tempo than that."

SAN DIEGO STATE VS. ARIZONA, 10:17 P.M.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Arizona and San Diego State are back on familiar ground in the NCAA West Regional.

Three years ago, both failed to advance out of the Sweet 16. This time, one of them is going home early again.

Coach Steve Fisher has never watched the tape of the Aztecs' loss to Connecticut as a No. 2 seed in the 2011 regional semifinals at Honda Center. Fourth-seeded SDSU (31-4) is back in the regional for the first time since then.

"I still think we were better than Connecticut when they won the national championship," Fisher said Wednesday.

The top-seeded Wildcats (32-4) are playing in their third Sweet 16 in four years. Three years ago in Anaheim, they lost to UConn by two points in the regional final.

Tonight's semifinal is a rematch between two teams that last played on Nov. 14, a lifetime ago in college basketball. The Wildcats won that road game 69-60 after leading by 14 points in the first half and then withstanding the Aztecs' late rally that cut the deficit to four.

"They guard, guard, guard, and they share the ball," Fisher said about Arizona. "That is a winning formula and they've got it."

Nick Johnson had 23 points and Aaron Gordon added 16 for the Wildcats, who went on to win 20 straight games and were ranked No. 1 for eight weeks. JJ O'Brien and Xavier Thames scored 19 points each for the Aztecs.

Of course, much more is at stake now.

Arizona wants to reach the Final Four, where coach Sean Miller has never been despite restoring the program to an elite level during his five years in the desert.

San Diego State's modest basketball resume includes never advancing beyond the Sweet 16; the school didn't even win an NCAA tournament game in its first 40 seasons playing Division I ball.

"They're out to prove that they're better than the outside world has given them credit," Miller said.

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