Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet 16 Preview: (1) Pittsburgh vs. (4) Xavier

(1) Pittsburgh Panthers:

Their Tournament so far: Pittsburgh has had their fair share of struggles so far in the tournament. Though they won their first game over 16th seed East Tennessee State by 10 points, they were up by only two with under five minutes to go. The Panthers played a sloppy game committing 18 turnovers. In the second round game Pittsburgh ran into the 3-point shooting (8) Oklahoma St. Cowboys. The Cowboys scored 49 points and shot over 60% from behind the arc in the first half. The Panthers battled back and turned the game into a 3-point shootout with both team combining for 18 trey's in the first half alone. Junior forward Sam Young led Pittsburgh with 32 points and played every minute of that game.

Hot Hand: The Panthers haven't had one player dominate so far but have had good performances from their stars. Sophomore center DaJuan Blair led the Panthers in the first round game with 27 points and 16 rebounds and followed it up with a double double in the second round game. Young had a solid first round game but exploded in the second round game against the Cowboys. Young was all over the floor and Oklahoma State just didn't have an answer for him.

How they match-up with Xavier: The Panthers can't match-up with Xavier's size or depth on paper, but they should be able to on the court. Blair and Young may not be the tallest front court players in the tournament but they play like they are. All year Blair has battled and won against taller big men in the Big East. On the perimeter Xaiver has a couple 3-point shooters and the Panthers will need big games by their guards to contain them. Both teams crash the boards but the Panthers should have a slight advantage here.

X-Factor: Control the game in the paint. The Panthers should go inside early and often to Blair and Young. Both players are so athletic and strong that they will be tough for Xavier to stop without fouling. While the Musketeers have a deep bench they lose a lot of leadership and experience when their starters are in foul trouble. Pittsburgh also has to have a rebounding advantage to eliminate second chance points.

(4) Xavier Musketeers:

Their Tournament so far: The Musketeers have two double digit wins in the first two rounds. They cruised past 13th seed Portland State 77-59 in the first round. Xavier had four players in double digits led by senior guard C.J. Anderson with 14. In the second round game (12) Wisconsin led at half but the Musketeers pulled away with a 35 point second half to a 60-49 victory.

Hot hand: Senior guard B.J. Raymond leads Xavier with 28 points between the two games. Raymond is the team's most consistent shooter and can score from anywhere on the court. Junior forward Derrick Brown also has a pair of double digit point efforts and is the team's best rebounder.

How they match-up with Pittsburgh: Xavier has the size to match-up with Pittsburgh and the athleticism but the question remains if they have the strength. The Musketeers big men will have to contain Blair and Young inside and fight for rebounds. One big advantage is their depth especially on the front court. If they can get some early fouls on Young or Blair they should be able to get a rebounding advantage. Both Anderson and Raymond can play a little forward and have the quickness to guard Young.

X-Factor: Dominate the boards. Xavier is a good rebounding team but will need to be a great one to beat Pittsburgh at their own game. The Panthers are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, especially on offense. They give their team multiple second chance shots throughout the game. The Musketeers will need to eliminate the Panthers advantage underneath and get their own second chance opportunities if they hope to win.

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