ST. LOUIS - The last time Tennessee faced Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes had monstrous Greg Oden dominating inside and Mike Conley Jr. making sure everything flowed smoothly.

Must be a relief to the Volunteers that they won't have to see those guys again tonight's Midwest Regional semifinal, huh?

"They're a more difficult team to game-plan for," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said yesterday.

The second-seeded Buckeyes (29-7) might look different from when they held off the Vols in the regional semifinals 3 years ago, but are no less formidable.

Evan Turner is, without a doubt, the star of this year's Ohio State squad, and a leading candidate to add national honors to his Big Ten player of the year award. With 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists a game, the slippery guard is more versatile than Oden.

"He knows how to motivate players and make everyone better," OSU guard Jon Diebler said.

The sixth-seeded Vols (27-8) weathered the suspensions of Brian Williams, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins and the dismissal of Tyler Smith, a two-time all-Southeastern Conference player, after they were arrested Jan. 1 when a gun and marijuana were found during a traffic stop.

N. Iowa vs. Michigan St.

When the ninth-seeded Panthers (30-4) take the floor against the No. 5 Spartans (26-8) tonight, it won't be as underdogs.

"We feel we can play with everybody," senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh said yesterday.

The Panthers had the NCAA's biggest bracket buster in years, knocking off top overall seed Kansas in the second round.

"Northern Iowa is a very good team," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. *