March Madness

Color me unimpressed with Pittsburgh. I know I’m biased (Syracuse alum) but they were on cruise control last night and with a couple of different bounces, Xavier would have shocked the world.

It didn’t help that neither team could shoot a lick, both under 30% in the second half. And DeJuan Blair needs to do 2 things: make layups and stop fouling on every rebound attempt. Sooner or later, the referees are going to blow the whistle for his constant pushing and shoving in the paint. This is basketball, not rugby.

If they play like they did last night, the Panthers will get run off the floor by Villanova. Oh wait, they already did, in January. And I don’t expect the result of this game to be any different if you look at how Villanova dismantled Duke last night.

The Blue Devils were completely overmatched from the get-go, as Scottie Reynolds dominated from the outside, and Dante Cunningham cleaned the glass down low. Duke looked tenative and didn’t attack the hoop (it didn’t help that Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer were a horrendous 4-32 from the field).

And then there’s the mystery of Greg Paulus, probably the second most hated player in the nation (behind ‘Cuse’s Eric Devendorf). Paulus started nearly every game over the last three years, becoming infamous for his hustle, constant hand clapping and cheering, and solid outside shooting. And suddenly, the team captain is benched by Coach K in favor of getting “more athletic.”

Now, Duke had a pretty good year, so it’s hard to second guess. But with two off-guard/small forward types running the show last night, Duke looked completely lost on offense. By the time Paulus got into the game, it was already a blowout and he had no chance to make an impact. I’m not saying he definitely would have changed things, but don’t you have to take a chance that his heart and experience could have kept Duke in the game early in the second half?

So now we have an all-Big East regional final – Pittsburgh (and the strangely-under-represented Oakland Zoo) and Villanova (who has TONS of fans in town, packing all four floors of the Greatest Bar before and after the game). Tip is set for 7:05 Saturday night. I think Reynolds and Cunningham are better – and want it more – than Fields and Blair.

Prediction: Villanova 72 Pittsburgh 64

Now let’s go Orange!

-SI

p.s. Cheap Plug Alert: the slideshow from last night is up.

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