Saturday, March 28, 2009

Preview -- Pittsburgh #2...Not Here

The Wildcats and Panthers know each other pretty well by now, having played 9 times in the Wright-Dixon Era (2003-2009). Villanova's tally during that period -- 4-5. Everybody who follows either (or both) of the teams has a pretty good idea of what each must do in order to win. And make no mistake, either team can win this game, despite what the simulations and analysts might say. So how are the experts calling this one?

The ink media homies say...
The game has NCAA, Big East, but ultimately state-level rivalry implications that dig into the psychie of each of Pennsylvania's two largest cities...
Joe Juliani over at the Philadelphia Inquirer thinks the game will focus on defense -- consistent with the shared history and each staff's "defense first" philosophy. Juliano looks to Cunningham, Reynolds and Fisher to power the Wildcats, while Young, Blair and Fields will headline for the Panthers.
The Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo believes the Panthers' rocky start in the tournament is behind them as their win over Xavier Thursday gets them over that Sweet Sixteen hump. The Panthers are looking to return to the Final Four for the first time since 1941. Fittipaldo's material is drawn mostly from yesterday's press conferences.
The PDN's Mike Kern believes the momentum gathered through Nova's 1st three tournament games will be essential if the Wildcats are to prevail today. Kern does a nice job of juxtaposing coaching records/backgrounds and records, paths to the Elite Eight and "To Do" Lists. He too foresees the basketball equivalent of a Sumo wrestling match.
The Tribune-Review's John Grupp puts his analysis on the sidebar and gives senior guard Levance Fields center stage. The Panther Nation looks at this as the biggest game in Pitt basketball history, and Fields wants to win it for Head Coach Jamie Dixon. Keys to the game according to Grupp include (for Villanova...) containing Young and distribute the scoring, and (for Pittsburgh) keeping Blair on the court and out of foul trouble, valuing the ball and hit their outside shots, so the 'Cats will not be able to collapse on Blair and shut down the passing lanes.

The national media say...
ESPN links to an anonymous preview from the AP, though Andy Katz does kick in two pieces, the first a close-up recap of Pitt's tight win over Xavier; the second a compare/contrast piece on Dixon & Wright, two coaches, Katz suggests, who will make up the new hierarchy in the Big East (assuming each stays put).
Over at CBS Sportsline, former assistant and current HC Joe Jones and Jason Horowitz do a video preview. Jones likes Villanova as Pitt has been inconsistent so far. Over at the regional coverage they posted a side-by-side comparison of the Panthers and Wildcats. Authored by "The Sports Xchange", it suggests Blair has to avoid foul trouble and Scottie is Nova's go-to guy. CBS stringer Mike Freeman, doing his best Gregg Doyel cover, finger wags at Pittsburgh for their string of close wins through the first three rounds of the tournament. He also does a pretty good side-by-side profiles of Blair and Cunningham, suggesting this is going to be a battle on the inside.

Alex Wolff over at Sports Illustrated starts out with a profile on DeJuan Blair, works in the improbability storyline (well mined) on Blair, before finishing up with a spoonful of interstate rivalry (Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia), topped with a large helping of class rivalry (Pittsburgh is working class with dirty air, the Main Line is toney...). Bring your Alka-Seltzer.

What the Bloggers say...
The NBE Blogger calls this one for Pitt, 73-67. That is a bit more than most others.
Over at the Bleacher Report a committee of writers favors Pitt, 3-2. A few basic stats to look at for those who are interested. Frequent Nova writer ? puts together a "...By the Numbers" breakdown of the two teams, on his way to teasing you into yet another click on the Bleacher Reports web site. Sorry I didn't go the extra click, so I don't know who he picked (but I'm gonna guess it might be Villanova).
The Nova Nation Blogosphere is unusually quiet this weekend. Everyone in Boston (I see Chris over at IBBW posted a quick note from Bean town, indicating that the VUAA reception is overbooked to the point where they have had to rent a second bar...some things never change)? Preparing "Regional Final/Off to the Final Four!" posts? It seems that only Let's Go Nova, and the Villanovan Sports Blog have posted pregame reviews. posted the latest in their pregame series, "Game 37 vs #1 Pittsburgh", which gives a run down on what has changed since their last meeting in January. Their second post, "Comparing Stats with Pitt", is more a Tale of the Tape post as they take a statistical look at the two teams. LGN's Pete posted that this might be the first of the four NCAA games so far where the Wildcats may be at a disadvantage on the interior. Meanwhile David over at the Villanovan Sports Blog seems to close the circle from the senior's freshman year, when the team ran to the Regional Finals in Minneapolis only to fall to Florida to this season, when these seniors want to take the next step.

What Pomeroy and Pythagoras Say...
Largely overlooked in the 1st few rounds of the tournament, the Wildcat's Offensive and Defensive adjusted ratings have "crossed over" into the elite territory associated with Final Four teams. The The game will be played for about 68 possessions, with the Panthers taking a 74-72 decision.

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