Villanova vs. Pittsburgh
NCAA East Regional Final
Saturday, 7 p.m.
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston
TV/Radio: CBS3/ESPN (950-AM)
Records: Villanova 29-7, Pitt 31-4
History: Villanova leads the series, 31-27. The Wildcats beat the Panthers at the Wachovia Spectrum on Jan. 28, 67-57.
How they got here: No. 3 seed Villanova beat No. 14 American, 80-67, No. 6 UCLA, 89-69, and No. 2 Duke, 77-54. Top-seeded Pitt beat No. 16 East Tennessee State, 72-62, No. 8 Oklahoma State, 84-76, and No. 4 Xavier, 60-55.
Coaches: Jay Wright is 177-90 in 8 years at Villanova, 299-175 in 15 seasons overall. Jamie Dixon is 163-44 in 6 years at Pitt.
Three things Villanova must do:
1. Play the way it did the last two games. Or at least come up with a reasonable facsimile. Because the Wildcats have simply overpowered UCLA and Duke, particularly at the defensive end. Pitt figures to present a different challenge, but it’s nothing they haven’t seen, and been able to deal with, before.
2. Get contributions from as many sources as possible. They don’t all have to be major contributions, but in a scrum where every possession is probably critical, even the small stuff becomes major. And the Wildcats have been very good at dotting the I’s and crossing those T’s.
3. Keep Dante Cunningham on the court. Especially if Pitt’s DeJuan Blair manages to stay on the court. He played 34 minutes in the first game. There’s going to be a bunch of banging, and you never know how those whistles are going to toot. The Wildcats need his presence. And his production.
Three things Pitt must do:
1. Not play like it has so far, because it might not be enough. The Panthers have looked like a team playing not to lose. That might not get it done in this spot. Maybe the Panthers will be looser, now that they’ve made it this far. It wouldn’t hurt.
2. Keep Blair out of foul trouble. He played 23 minutes in the first game, took three shots and had eight rebounds. He’s obviously capable of a whole lot more. Against Xavier, he got banged around a lot and didn’t get many calls. On defense, he seemed to play like a guy who was trying to avoid contact. It’s a fine line, for someone who can be a monster.
3. Get Sam Young off. Blair was the Big East co-Player of the Year, but Young might be Pitt’s most dangerous weapon. He had a quiet 19 points against Xavier. But he’s shown that he can carry this team for stretches, if that’s what it takes. He’ll probably be guarded by Dwayne Anderson, at least for starters.
What to expect: In all likelihood, this won’t be pretty. The previous encounter certainly wasn’t. It’s the Big East. It’s not supposed to be pretty. Live with it. I’ve always been a revenge kind of guy when it comes to picking these things. But what I’m seeing is telling me otherwise. Still, I’m going to do ’Nova Nation the biggest favor ever, and go with Pitt by the slightest whatever. The coin came up tails. Which probably ensures the Wildcats continue to roll. Sharpen those scissors.