In Sports from United Press International

March 22, 2002 at 3:03 PM
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NCAA tourney continues improbable journey

By United Press International

The topsy turvy NCAA basketball tournament stages the second half of its "sweet 16" round Friday night with the two remaining top seeds, Kansas and Maryland, mindful of what happened to Duke 24 hours earlier.

Kansas meets fourth-seeded Illinois and No. 2 Oregon faces No. 6 Texas in the Midwest Region semifinal.

In the East Region, Maryland has a tough opponent in No. 4 Kentucky and No. 2 Connecticut goes up against 11th seeded Southern Illinois, one of the tournament's major surprises.

The two winners in each of the East and Midwest regions meet Sunday to decide who goes to the Final Four.

Duke, the defending champion and top-seeded in the South Region, was upset Thursday night by fifth-ranked Indiana, 74-73 in the South Region semifinals.

That put Indiana in Saturday's unlikely South championship game against 10th seeded Kent State, a 78-73 winner over Pittsburgh, for a trip to the Final Four.

In the West Region, Missouri, the only 12th seed ever to make it to the region final, will face No.2 seed Oklahoma Saturday. Missouri downed UCLA 82-73 and the Sooners beat Arizona 88-67 on Thursday night.

Mickelson takes Players lead

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., March 22 (UPI) -- Phil Mickelson completed a round of 8-under 64 Friday that put him two shots in front at the rain-delayed Players Championship.

Mickelson did not miss a fairway and needed only 24 putts to take early command in the richest tournament on the PGA Tour.

Chris DiMarco, whos has climbed into the top 10 in the world rankings, shot 66 and Scott Hoch had a 67 in an opening round that was delayed for 2 ½ hours by rain on Thursday.

As a result, half the field had to complete the first round early Friday and then start out on the second round. The wind gusted out of the north early Friday at 10-15 miles per hour and temperatures were in the 50s, but Mickelson birdied two of the last three holes to jump in front.

Carter schedules knee surgery

TORONTO, March 22 (UPI) -- With the Toronto Raptors in freefall, Vince Carter will no longer play with a troublesome left knee that has derailed his high-wire act.

The Raptors announced on Friday that their superstar guard will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery sometime next week and miss the remainder of the regular season.

Carter has battled through the knee problem since February when he was forced to miss seven games along with the All-Star Game, and the injury grew progressively worse during the past month.

With his jumping ability negated, Carter struggled and the Raptors collapsed, losing 17 of 18 games since the All-Star break to virtually fall out of the playoff race.

Orioles extend pact for versatile Conine

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 22 (UPI) -- The Baltimore Orioles Friday awarded Jeff Conine with a two-year contract extension through the 2005 season.

Conine enjoyed a strong season in 2001, leading the Orioles with a .311 average, 97 RBI, 75 runs and 44 multi-hit games.

One of the Orioles' most versatile players, Conine started games at first base, third base, right field, left field and designated hitter in 2001.

Major League Soccer opens new season

NEW YORK, March 22 (UPI) -- Five games open Major League Soccer's seventh season Saturday with most observers expecting an unpredictable but close 10-team battle for the MLS Cup.

Each squad in the new-look, two-conference alignment

can realistically harbor the dream of repeating the success story

of the San Jose Earthquakes, who came out of nowhere in 2001 to

claim their first Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy.

The Chicago Fire and the Columbus Crew get things rolling at Columbus in an afternoon contest with all other action at night. The Earthquakes open the defense of their crown on the road at the Cotton Bowl taking on the revamped Dallas Burn.

Sakhee leads Dubai field

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 22 (UPI) -- Sakhee, one of four horses from Godolphin Racing, leads a field of 11 entered for Saturday's $6 million Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse race, at the Nad Al Sheba track.

The last time Sakhee competed in a race of international magnitude, he was defeated by Tiznow in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park in New York last October. Sakhee surged to the lead at the furlong pole but faded and lost by a nose.

Sakhee, the winner of the Arc de Triomphe last fall, has raced just once since the Breeders' Cup, winning a prep by nine lengths. The 5-year-old is expected to race in Europe this year with a return to the Breeders' Cup in the fall. With Tiznow retired, Sakhee will compete for the title of the world's best racehorse.

Sakhee drew the No. 4 post with Frankie Dettori aboard for the 1 1/4-mile race, which is worth a whopping $3.5 million to the winner. The biggest rival for Sakhee is expected to be 2001 Japanese champion Agnes Digital.

Site selection postponed

PHOENIX, March 22 (UPI) -- Selection of a site for a new $350 million football stadium for the Arizona Cardinals has been postponed for a week to give two of the contendingcommunities more time to complete their plans. The Arizona Republic said the state's Tourism and Sports Authority had planned to pick a winner Thursday. But, the city of Mesa and the Gila River Indian Community were given an extra week. The Republic said Mesa is still working on financing while a new legalanalysis has brought up questions as to whether Maricopa County can legallysponsor the Gila River site.

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