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MIDWEST REGIONAL Upsets could come from Indianapolis



Published: Tue, March 25, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Southern Illinois, Holy Cross looking to surprise some people.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Southern Illinois coach Bruce Weber almost expects the Salukis to make another NCAA tournament run.

He knows his team belongs in the field, and he knows his players believe they can win after reaching the round of 16 last season.

"I think Gonzaga started it, and hopefully we can keep it going," Weber said Wednesday, one day before playing Missouri in the first round.

Sweet 16

The Salukis became the darlings of last year's tournament with upsets of Texas Tech and Georgia to reach the regional semifinals. If another team emerges from the list of virtual unknowns this year, there's a good chance it will come from Indianapolis.

Southern Illinois (24-6), seeded 11th in the Midwest, beat out Creighton for the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title and has won 14 of its last 16 games. The other Midwest game pits third-seeded Marquette (23-5) against Patriot League champ Holy Cross (26-4), winners of 20 of 21 since late December.

The two West Regional games today have fourth-seeded Illinois (24-6) meeting No. 13 Western Kentucky (24-8), the Sun Belt champs, and fifth-seeded Notre Dame (22-9) facing first-time entrant Wisconsin-Milwuakee (24-7).

Mismatches

At first glance, many of the games would appear mismatches.

But the way the teams are playing, Weber and others know upsets are possible.

The Irish enter the tournament having lost four of five, while Horizon League champ Wisconsin-Milwaukee has lost only twice since mid-January -- at Butler and at Southern Illinois.

The Panthers are not short on confidence, either.

"If they don't take us seriously, they'll have a problem on their hands," forward Clay Tucker said. "If they do take us seriously, they'll still have a problem on their hands."

Favorites in Indianapolis are not easy to find.

Western Kentucky is making its third straight NCAA appearance and while coach Dennis Felton acknowledges few would pick his team to knock off Illinois, the Hilltoppers won 12 straight to get an automatic bid.

Marquette has lost four straight postseason games and hasn't been to the second round of the NCAAs since 1996. And although Holy Cross hasn't won an NCAA game since 1953, it's certainly proven a pest the last two years with near upsets of Kansas and Kentucky.




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