Saturday Madness Picks
Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their College Basketball picks and predictions for Saturday, March 28.
Villanova vs. Pittsburgh, 7:05PM ET
Pittsburgh and Villanova endured a bruising Big East schedule to qualify for the NCAA tournament. They arrived that much better prepared to advance to the Final Four.
But first, one of them has to get past the other.
The cross-state rivals will meet in the East regional final at the TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday in a game that puts the Big East in the national spotlight. Though it sometimes gets competition for bragging rights from the likes of the Atlantic Coast Conference, there is no questioning the toughness of a league that once experimented with allowing a sixth foul so its bruisers could stay in the game.
``The Big East is going to be tough, no matter what,'' said Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound big man who was the conference's co-player of the year. ``The ACC - you really can't compare them. They're like rocks and cotton. We're just toughness, we're not finesse players.''
But if Pittsburgh (31-4) is going to get any further this year, Blair might want to be a little more cotton and a little less rock.
Born and bred in the Steel City, Blair embodies Pittsburgh's playing style and carries its chances of winning the school's first NCAA title. He averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds during the season and had a pair of 20-point, 20-rebound games, but he also fouled out in three of the Panthers' four losses, including a Jan. 28 loss to Villanova in the schools' only regular-season meeting.
Missouri vs. Connecticut, 4:40PM ET
When the NCAA released its brackets two weeks ago, many observers relished the prospect of a West regional final between top-seeded Connecticut and No. 2 Memphis.
Only one problem with that: Missouri.
The third-seeded Tigers left Memphis gasping for air in the regional semifinals. Now they'll turn their frenetic style on the Huskies, who outlasted Purdue in the other semifinal.
``They advertise it as the 40 fastest minutes in basketball,'' UConn coach Jim Calhoun said on Friday, ``And I'm a believer.''
How will the West be won?
UConn (30-4) will try to force a halfcourt game and pound the ball inside to 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet, who was as imposing as a saguaro cactus against Purdue.
With no starters over 6-foot-9, Mizzou (31-6) will answer with a relentless running game that dropped 102 points on Memphis, which had been conceding 57.6 points per game.
It's the first meeting between the schools - and the winner earns a trip to the Final Four in Detroit. The team that controls the tempo is likely to cut down the nets on Saturday afternoon.
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Posted: 3/28/09 12:50AM ET