East Regional Final Preview: A Big East Brawl for a Spot in the Final Four

Steve AugerAnalyst IIMarch 28, 2009

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 22: Levance Fields #2 and DeJuan Blair #45 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrate late in the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 22, 2009 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Villanova Wildcats (29-7, 13-5 Big East) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (31-4, 15-3 Big East)

Saturday, Mar. 28, 2009 – 7:05 PM EST

The East Regional final features the No. 3 seed Villanova Wildcats against the No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Panthers.

For as dominant as the Big East has been all season, it’s only fitting that the league is guaranteed a Final Four berth when these two teams square off tonight in Boston.

Villanova and Pittsburgh met only once during the regular season, a 67-57 home victory for the Wildcats.

The Panthers led by five at the half, 31-26. But Villanova blitzed them in the second twenty minutes, 41-26, to pull away for the win.

Neither team shot well from the floor and they were both less than stellar from the free throw line.

The key to the game wasn’t so much what Villanova did well, but more what Pitt didn’t do well, specifically DeJuan Blair.

The Panthers big man spent most of the game in foul trouble.

Blair finished with only seven points, eight boards, and four fouls in just 20 minutes of game time.

Pitt’s offense, and defense, just isn’t the same without Blair clogging the lane on both ends of the court.

Sam Young (14 points, nine rebounds) and Levance Fields (11 points, four assists) played fairly well. They received help from teammate Bradley Wanamaker, who chipped in 13 points.

For the Wildcats, Reggie Redding had the big game (18 points, seven boards). Senior Dante Cunningham scored 15 and hauled down five caroms.

Scottie Reynolds scored 10 points in the win.

When these two old conference foes cross paths on the biggest stage tonight, the stakes will be much higher.

Pittsburgh will need the real DeJuan Blair to make an appearance.

Jay Wright is hoping that his guards will carve up the Pitt defense the way they destroyed Duke on Thursday night.


Current line: Pittsburgh -2.0

Villanova is 17-14 against the spread with a record of 5-4 as an underdog.

Pittsburgh is 16-12-1 against the spread with a record of 13-11 as the favorite.

Villanova has been playing as well as any team in the tournament. Pittsburgh has been redefining the phrase “survive and advance.”

Steve’s pick: Villanova +2.0