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Settling in 03.26.09 at 8:13 pm ET
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Both Xavier and Pittsburgh have settled into a rhythm.

Granted neither team is burning the nets with the top-seeded Panthers making just 10 of 26 from the field while Xavier is just 10-for-29. Xavier has made 7-of-13 since starting 3-for-16.

The crowd is late-arriving but that’s to be expected considering the second game isn’t expected to tap-off until about 10 p.m. nearly all the seats filled in both the lower and upper bowls.

Villanova and Duke are expected to have very large numbers in the TD Banknorth Garden for the second East Regional semifinal.

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Xavier not backing down 03.26.09 at 8:01 pm ET
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The Pittsburgh Panthers had the reputation as the toughest of the tough this year. The most physical team in the Big East is accustomed to manhandling teams, beginning with DeJuan Blair in the post.

But the Xavier Musketeers are not intimidated in the least in this Sweet 16 matchup. They have Derrick Brown and C.J. Anderson bodying Blair every time he gets the ball. Every Pittsburgh shot is being contested.

Meanwhile, the Muskies are doing a good job of perimeter passing, opening lanes for and Brown and Anderson each have thunderous dunks.

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Pitt warms up 03.26.09 at 7:53 pm ET
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After missing seven of their first nine shots, the No. 1 seed Panthers have made four of six, including a three, to grab the 14-12 lead over Xavier. The Muskies, on the other hand, remain ice cold, and have made just three of their first 16 from the field.

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Xavier out to early lead 03.26.09 at 7:43 pm ET
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At the first time out, the large contingent from Cincinnati that made the trip to Boston has had more to cheer about.

Xavier has grabbed an early lead over Pittsburgh, 9-4, at the first official media time out with 15:14 remaining in the first half.

This game has come as advertised early on. Lots of loose balls and missed shots and physical play under the glass.

Each team has made just 2 of their first 9 shots from the floor.

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Duke shipping back to Boston 03.25.09 at 5:11 pm ET
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Mike Krzyzewski remembers the last time his Duke Blue Devils were in Boston.

And he’d rather not. It was, of course, not at the Garden but rather a few miles up Commonwealth at Conte Forum playing Boston College.

It was Feb. 15 and his team blew a five-point halftime lead and lost to the Eagles, 80-74. It was the second straight loss, coming just four days after getting humiliated by rival North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 101-87.

After that game, Gerald Henderson replaced Greg Paulus as starting point guard and the Dukies have won eight of nine, including the ACC Tournament championship.

“The only reason that was different is that’s the last time we really played poorly,” Krzyzewski said on Wednesday. “But Boston College had a lot to do with that. But to me there’s no significance — actually, we didn’t play in Boston. And — I don’t think there’s any significance.

“I think as a coach you have to do what you think is needed to help our team. And when we got beat by Boston College, it wasn’t just that game, it was the six games that we had just played. And we won two of them. And one of them we had to come back from being 16 or 18 points down to win in overtime. So basically we’re 1 and 5. We were actually 2 and 4, but 1 and 5 in my mind in those six games.”

So to Coach K, even when the team is sometimes winning, they’re losses in his mind. And maybe that’s what keeps Duke sharp.

“How long are you going to keep doing what you’re doing?” he asked rhetorically. “And maybe we can go 1 and 5 again for the next few games. So we needed to do something different. And thank goodness that Elliot had been practicing so hard that he was able to pressure the ball and thank goodness we had a guy like Jon who could lead the team. And then all of a sudden — then those decisions work out a lot better.”

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Welcome home Gerald Henderson 03.25.09 at 4:31 pm ET
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Gerald Henderson is hoping to have the same success in Boston that his dad did.

We chronicled his father’s most famous moment when he stole the ball from James Worthy in Game 2 of the 1984 NBA Finals. Now let’s hear it from the man himself. Assuming he can stay awake for the 10 p.m. tip-off, Gerald Henderson will start at point guard for Duke on Thursday night against Villanova.

There are several ironies at work here.

First is the fact that his game will be played in the home building of the Celtics but not on the parquet or with Celtics banners above him because of NCAA regulations, meaning he can’t pay tribute to one of the banners his father helped put up in the rafters.

“They took the banners down. They took them down,” Henderson said with some genuine remorse. ” It’s pretty nice to be playing in Boston, where my dad had his best years as a pro. It’s pretty cool to be playing in the same place as him. I’m sure he’ll have fun coming back here and hopefully watching me having some of the same success that he had.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Pitt: No apologies 03.25.09 at 4:13 pm ET
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If you’re expecting Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon to apologize for his team’s underwhelming performance as a No. 1 seed in the East Regional in the first two rounds, here’s some advice – don’t bother.

Pittsburgh struggled mightily with No. 16 seed East Tennessee in round one and was tied at halftime with No. 8 Oklahoma State in the second round before winning by eight, 84-76.

“I guess it reinforces things,” Dixon told reporters about the close calls in the first two games. “We didn’t rebound well in the first game, and the second game we got better, and out-rebounded our opponent by 20, that was something, I think.”

With Xavier on tap on Thursday night, one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country, Dixon knows his players need to bring their best to the glass to continue their march in March.

“I think it was what we learned was we can win — really that Oklahoma State game showed we can win offensively, we can win defensively in the second half. That was an interesting game, because you had two teams shooting, knocking down shots the first half. And the second half became a grind it out defensive affair. And we played that way, as well, played successfully in that half, as well. You learn you can play two different ways this time of the year.”

Moments after learning his team was a No. 1 seed for the first time ever, Dixon was asked by CBS-TV whether he was concerned about jinxes and comparisons to the Chicago Cubs.

” This team is different than any other team,” Dixon said on Wednesday. “And again, that’s — Sweet 16 is an accomplishment. If it was — if it wasn’t, teams would have got there more than we have. And there’s only two that have been there more than we have the last eight years, Duke and Kansas have been there more than us. There aren’t any buys into the Sweet 16. I think maybe it’s forgotten.”

And for the record, Pittsburgh has never beaten a team seeded higher than sixth in the NCAA tournament. Xavier is No. 4 in the East.

“Yeah, I think this team is different than the previous team from last year, and it’s definitely different from the team six years ago, five years ago, four years ago,” Dixon said. “All the times we’ve made it we have different players, we’re playing different teams. And at the same time we know we have a very good opponent to play tomorrow in Xavier.”

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