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Big East Quarterfinals Preview

March 11, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big East Conference Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Jim Woods

No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh
Virginia Tech comes in fresh off of their first-ever Big East Tournament win and looks to pull the shocker against the top seeded Panthers. This game could potentially draw the smallest crowd ever to MSG for a tournament game, however, those in attendance will get to see two teams that really look to guard the opponent hard on the perimeter. Rutgers had all kinds of problems with the Hokies hawking on-ball defense, and everybody knows how the Panthers take you out of everything you try to do offensively. Va Tech needs to get leading scorer Bryant Matthews going today. He has to be more a of force and a factor for the Hokies to have any chance at the upset. Today is the start of the Panthers drive to a fourth straight tournament title game, and I don’t see today being the day they get derailed.

Prediction: Virginia Tech can play loose with nothing to lose and this will keep them in the game early. Pitt just has too much experience to overlook this one. Pitt pulls away in the last seven minutes and wins 63-51.

No. 5 Boston College vs. No. 4 Syracuse
Probably the worst thing for Syracuse yesterday was Georgetown playing 40 minutes of 2-3 zone against the Eagles. It was a two hour zone offense practice for BC, which is exactly what they needed for today. Sean Marshall is going to be key for the Eagles. His shooting needs to be on to stretch the Orange zone and open up more room for Craig Smith to operate on the baseline. Syracuse must get good games out of their inside outside combination of Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara. If either gets in any kind of foul trouble, the Orange could be in danger. Both teams are already locks for NCAA bids, but both can help their seeding with a win.

Prediction: Warrick and McNamara are so experienced and very talented. BC will not back down or be intimidated by the returning National Champions. This will be a final possession game and Syracuse pulls out a squeaker 71-70.

No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Connecticut
The obvious storyline to this game is the health of Huskie star Emeka Okafor. If he plays and is capable, the Irish face a major obstacle. Even if he sits this out, the Huskies are still deeper than the Irish, but ND can get more inside baskets which they will need. Chris Quinn and Chris Thomas are capable of carrying the Irish with a hot shooting night from the perimeter, but you can be assured Coach Calhoun will have the Huskies extended out defensively to not give those two any open looks. The Thomas/Ben Gordon matchup is going to be a highlight of the day, and Thomas has the length and quickness defensively to cause Gordon problems. However, when it is all said and done, Connecticut just has too many weapons.

Prediciton: Connecticut with or without Okafor wins 81-73.

No. 3 Providence vs. No. 11 Villanova
Villanova will try to carry forth the energy that they had last night in upsetting Seton Hall to tonight’s contest. This game is going to be another hard fought battle between two teams with similar personnel. Villanova needs better play out of point guard Mike Nardi tonight to keep playing on Friday. I assume Curtis Sumpter will have the task of guarding Ryan Gomes, so look for the Friar All-American to try and get Sumpter on the block. Villanova looked to get Jason Frasier more touches inside in the second half of last night’s game, and I’ll be interested to see if they continue that trend. An inside threat for the Wildcats would really open things up for their three-guard attack on the perimeter. Providence needs to shake off some sluggish play down the stretch of the regular season and realize their “real” season begins tonight.

Prediction: Every tournament needs a Cinderella, and this Wildcat team is talented enough to play that role. Villanova moves on 64-60.

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