Thursday, March 26, 2009

Xavier vs. Pitt Sweet 16 Preview

Why Xavier Can Win: The Musketeers match-up very well with the Panthers up front. Jason Love, Kenny Frease, and Derrick Brown provide enough muscle to, in theory, bang with DeJuan Blair and company. Pitt, and Blair specifically, dominates teams on the glass. But Xavier is also one of the best in the country, out rebounding their opponent's by an average of 8.5 rpg. The Musketeers will also have an experience edge over the Panthers. X has reached the Elite 8 twice in the previous five NCAA Tournaments, including last season. Pitt was bounced in the second round last year, and hasn't reached an Elite 8 since 1974.

Why Pitt Can Win: Pitt has built a national reputation on their tough defense and tenacious work on the glass, and as such have beaten teams this year that play the same way (ask UConn). Xavier is also a team that relies on tough defense and board work in order to win games. Pitt has trouble with teams that can spread them out and force DeJuan Blair to defend on the perimeter. Frease and Love are not going to be playing all that much on the perimeter. Terrell Holloway and Dante Jackson are not exactly stars at the offensive end, and defending them in the pick-and-roll is probably not costing Jamie Dixon any sleep. The other reason Pitt can win is that they have a great point guard, a great scorer on the wing, a dominant big man on the interior, a number of excellent role players and a great coach. They truly are a complete team, and will be scary if they can put it all together.

Key To The Game: DeJuan Blair's fouls. It has been said so many times, but Pitt loses when Blair is in foul trouble because that they are simply not the same team without him on the floor. As I said, Xavier does not have many players that are going to force Blair to defend on the perimeter, so X is going to have to get the ball into the paint (either via penetration or a post touch) and go aggressively to the rim if they want to get the big guy out of the game.

BIAH Pick: Pitt. I just don't think X has enough this year.

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