March Madness Picks

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Thursday, March 26.

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Xavier vs. Pittsburgh, 7:25PM ET

Xavier should have outgrown the stigma of being a ``mid-major'' team with its success in NCAA tournaments.

Right, coach Sean Miller?

``How would you define that?'' he asked.

Good question.

With the impressive NCAA tournament showings by Xavier, Memphis and Gonzaga this decade - all still in the tournament from non-BCS conferences - ``mid-major'' is hardly synonymous with early elimination.

So when Xavier takes on Pittsburgh from the tough Big East in an East Regional semifinal Thursday night, the team with the better performance and not the stronger conference should prevail.

``You can say we're a mid-major, but we feel we're an elite level program and that's what we try to focus on,'' Xavier scoring leader B.J. Raymond said Wednesday.

NCAA Free Pick: Xavier  View Game Matchup | Best Line: +7 SPORTSBETTING.COM

Villanova vs. Duke, 9:55PM ET

BOSTON (AP) - The old Boston Garden has been torn down, and the Celtics' famous parquet will be tucked away in storage along with the NBA championship banners Gerald Henderson's father helped win.

But when the Duke guard takes the floor against Villanova in the NCAA East Regional semifinals on Thursday night, he'll be looking to leave the court the same way his dad did so often during his NBA career.

``It's pretty nice to be playing in Boston, where my dad had his best years as a pro,'' the younger Henderson said Wednesday. ``I'm sure he'll have fun coming back here and, hopefully, watching me having some of the same success that he had.''

Henderson's father - ``Big Gerald,'' as Villanova coach Jay Wright called him - played 13 seasons in the NBA, the first five years in Boston. With the Celtics he won the 1981 and '84 NBA championships, helping secure the latter - and his place in Boston lore - with a steal in the final seconds of a Game 2 victory.

NCAA Free Pick: Duke View Game Matchup | Best Line: -2 SPORTSBETTING.COM

Purdue at UCONN, 7:05PM ET

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun met with his players on Wednesday morning.

Under normal circumstances, he would talk about what the top-seeded Huskies have to do to prepare for fifth-seeded Purdue in the NCAA West Regional semifinals.

On this day, he also had to address a Yahoo! Sports report that UConn broke NCAA rules when it recruited former basketball player Nate Miles. Calhoun said he told the players that the university was looking into the allegations and that they shouldn't worry about them.

``As far as we're concerned and I'm concerned, we're here to beat Purdue, and I want you to know that,'' Calhoun said he told the players. ``That's basically the kind of the things that we talked to the kids about, then we shut it off.''

In reality, shutting it off might not be so simple.

From UConn's perspective, the timing couldn't have been worse. On a clear day in the desert, the report loomed like a stormcloud on the horizon.

NCAA Free Pick: Purdue View Game Matchup | Best Line: +6.5 SPORTSBETTING.COM

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Posted: 3/26/09 7:00AM ET

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