Following is a region-by-region preview of Thursday's second round of the NCAA basketball tournament: EAST VMI (26-3) vs. Kentucky (WDCA-TV -- 20, 6:05 p.m.) (6:05 p.m.)

Last year, VMI's presence in the NCAA tournament was considered a fluke, until the Keydets just missed becoming one of the final four. Now everyone takes them more seriously, but with this newfound respect comes the task of trying to be competitive against a powerhouse like Kentucky.

Kentucky might be the most versatile team left in the tournament. The Wildcats have the material -- they're big, strong and deep -- that can adapt to either a fast or deliberate tempo. And in big men Rick Robey and Mike Phillips they have the size to frighten any opponent.

VMI's hopes center around shooting. The Keydets must have one of their fine shooting nights while hoping that Kentucky suddenly falls into the shooting slump that hindered it in January. Otherwise, even the fine talents of ron Carter won't be enough for the Southern Conference champs. Notre Dame (22-6) vs. North Carolina (25-4) (WRC-TV -- 4, 3:15 p.m.)

Digger Phelps says his front court of vastly improved Toby Knight, Bruce Flowers and Dave Batton is the most underrated in the country. But his big men finally might get proper recognition after this game.

North Carolina can be hurt on the backboards. With Tom LaGarde out and Walter Davis questionable, the Tar Heels won't have the physical strength to match Notre Dame's aggressive rebounders and without rebounding, North Carolina can't run.

Dean Smith has exhausted most of his coaching skills to get his team this far after so many crippling injuries. Notre Dame is peaking at the right time to present Smith with one of his toughest tests. He would be helped by a closely called game, especially if Flowers gets in foul trouble.