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Sweet 16: East Region Semifinals
Boston, MA

The Sweet 16 is upon us, and the East Regional semifinals figure to be a dandy. With all 4 top seeds prevailing over the weekend, the stage is set for two epic showdowns Thursday night.

Duke vs Villanova

This figures to be an up-tempo battle between the guards of these two heavyweight programs. Villanova, fresh off manhandling a UCLA team that had been to 3 straight Final Fours, will be playing it’s first neutral site game of the tournament. After spending the first two rounds in the comfortable confines of the Wachovia Center, the Wildcats will head to Boston, eager to prove the Big East Conference was by far the best conference in America. Scottie Reynolds, Dwayne Anderson, and Corey Fisher have been the engine of the Cats all year, running the break, pressuring the ball, and really making guards all around the country play sloppy basketball. This won’t be an easy task with the great guards that Duke fields in their lineup. Starters Jon Sheyer and Elliot Williams are solid, but it’s the Blue Devils depth that makes them a special unit. Senior Greg Paulus was a three year starter before being given a bench role this season, while Nolan Smith (son of late NBA player Derrick Smith) has also had a brief stint as a starter this season. Guard play will be at a premium in this game, and the unit that makes more shots and creates more turnovers, could very well determine the outcome of this big time matchup.

The post play of both teams lack depth, but the big men that are featured are very impressive. Villanova has the Big East’s Most Improved Player, Dante Cunningham. As a senior, Cunningham has relished this final opportunity, and has really stepped up his game in the tournament. Dante has been sensational thus far, going off for 25 points and 7 rebounds in a round one nail biter over American. In round two, Dante came up huge again, with a double-double, ammasing 18 points and 10 boards against UCLA. He hasn’t played anyone as good as Duke’s Kyle Singlar though, and Singlar is no slouch. He has more ability than any of UCLA’s big men, and I won’t dare disrespect him by comparing his to the players on American. Singlar will be the most talented player on the floor, able to post up with his back to the basket, face up his opponent, or drive to the goal and create opportunities for himself and his teammates. This should be a relatively even duel, and a battle I’m eager to see.

I like Duke to pull this game out, as their combination of coaching, shooting, and skill should be enough to “Pitt” them into the Regional Finals. Coach K has struggled in recent tournaments, losing in the first weekend the last two years. This Duke team has the talent and poise to make a deep run, and I believe they will do exactly that.

Pittsburgh vs Xavier

The Panthers survived the first two rounds, struggling with both Eastern Tennessee St. and Oklahoma St. That being said, the name of the game is “Survive and Advance” and the gritty Panthers did exactly that. Sam Young did what he’s been doing the entire season, carrying the Panthers to victory with his dynamite all around game. The Super Senior scored 32 points on 12-20 shooting, adding 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks in Sunday’s win over Oklahoma St. Levance Fields continued his steady, mistake free brand of hoops, scoring 13 points, and handing out 9 assists. More importantly, Fields committed just 2 turnovers and was the consummate floor general the Panthers have come to depend on. Sophmore Sensation Dejuan Blair was average, but threw his body around and made big plays when it counted. It all added up to a trip to the Sweet 16 and a matchup with Xavier.

Xavier is a pretty balanced team, led by BJ Raymond, Derrick Brown, and CJ Anderson. Their lack of size on the interior is a bit worrysome, considering the brute strength of Blair. Jason Love will be given the task of trying to contain Dejuan underneath. His averages of 7 points and 6 rebounds doesn’t make me feel to good about his chances. This is a team with great wing players, but none of them have the abilities of Sam Young. BJ Raymond had a solid effort against Wisconsin going for 15 points, but the Panthers defense will be keying in on the 6-6 senior. The matchup of Young and Raymond will be important, but I just don’t see anyway how it doesn’t go in Sam’s favor.

In the end I expect Pittsburgh to come out and dominate this game from the opening tip. They just have too many advantages when you look at the matchups on paper. I’m still going to encourage Xavier to lace em up and be on time, cause we know that in this tournament “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”

Nolan Shulman
nolan@flagrantfouls.com

Posted 1 week, 1 day ago at 9:17 AM.

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Syracuse Post Game Press Conference
Round of 32

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Posted 1 week, 1 day ago at 4:16 AM.

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