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Trags Take… Villanova-Pittsburgh

03.27.09 at 5:24 pm ET
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East Regional Final No. 3 Villanova (29-7) vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh (31-4), Saturday, 7:05 p.m. TD Banknorth Garden

The Big East has been praised up and down as the best college basketball conference in the land. On Saturday night in Boston, that will be in full display as two of the best teams from the conference square off for the chance to go to the Final Four the following weekend in the Motor City.

Here are five things from each team to look for that will go a long way in determining who will be cutting the Garden nets and getting their motors revved for Detroit.

Pittsburgh:

1. Can Pittsburgh survive another inconsistent performance out of the gate? Most likely the answer to this question is no.

2. Can Pittsburgh avoid the foul trouble that plagued DeJuan Blair in the only other meeting between the two Pennsylvania cross-state rivals on Jan. 28 at the Spectrum?

3. Will Levance Fields start making an impact earlier than the last 60 seconds of the game?

4. Can Sam Young score on Villanova’s defense?

5. Will Pittsburgh find a way to control the offensive glass with their bigger front court?

Villanova:

1. Will Dante Cunningham continue to emerge as the most active player on Villanova’s roster?

2. Will Villanova be able to do what Xavier did on Thursday night and dribble penetrate in the lane and dish off to wide open scorers?

3. Will Scottie Reynolds finally be the Scottie Reynolds who can score at will?

4. Can Villanova find their long-range touch?

5. Will Villanova dominate the second half as they have in their first three tournament wins?

What they said:

Villanova coach Jay Wright: “We’ve got three seniors and Scottie (Reynolds) who’s played so many games, he’s like a senior, have been very, very successful with this year is just put the last game behind them, whether it was a good game or bad game, move on to the next game and keeping their focus on that.  So I think that’s going to be important. The higher the stakes get the more there’s distractions around you. And we’re really counting on these upperclassmen to make sure we concentrate on Pitt, who is I know I sound like a broken record, but when you get to this point in the season you’re playing great teams. We know them. These seniors have played against their seniors so many times.

“It’s going to be a great game. We know each other very well and we’ve had a lot of great battles. We have great respect for them, as I said last night. We’d love to win this game, but at least I hope we do win, but at least if we don’t, there’s a Big East team going to the Final Four. We’ll be proud of them and happy for them, but I hope it’s us.”

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon: “As soon as the game was over it was about who we’re going to be playing and getting our guys back to the hotel and getting them rested and preparation for the next one. I think it’s an interesting thing. I know there’s about 330 programs that would like to ask that question and call the Sweet 16 like a bad thing. It’s been an accomplishment. It’s something that we as a program I never considered as a possibility, and we were getting there on more often than everybody but two schools in the country. So I think Kansas and Duke are one up on us.  So we’ve had a very good run, very good success. But at the same time we know that a National Championship is something that we have as a goal.”

Trags Take: Villanova coach Jay Wright says that the Final Four isn’t a specific goal for his team. Jamie Dixon of Pitt says it is. Wright says he just wants his team playing their best basketball. And they are. They are outscoring their opponents by a total of 50 points in the second halves of their three NCAA games so far. Games are won in the the second half, just ask Pittsburgh who had to get a prayer answered when Levance Fields drained a long, long three-pointer in the final minute to carry the Panthers to victory. Villanova has the guard play and depth that Xavier didn’t. Villanova will be revving their motors following this one and off to the Final Four for the first time since their magical 1985 title season.

Villanova 75, Pittsburgh 63

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