Tonight at 7:05, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, NCAA East Regional final.
TV/Radio: CBS3; ESPN-AM (950).
Records: Villanova, 29-7, seeded third in the regional; Pittsburgh, 31-4, seeded first.
Last meeting: The Wildcats defeated the then-No. 1 Panthers, 67-57, on Jan. 28 at the Wachovia Spectrum behind a career high of 18 points from Reggie Redding.
Coaches: Villanova, Jay Wright (eighth season, 177-90); Pittsburgh, Jamie Dixon (sixth season, 163-44).
Key players: For Villanova, F Dante Cunningham, 6-8, Sr. (16.3 ppg., 7.4 rpg.); G Scottie Reynolds, 6-2, Jr. (15.2 ppg., 3.4 apg.); G Corey Fisher, 6-1, Soph. (10.8 ppg.).
For Pittsburgh, F Sam Young, 6-6, Sr. (18.9 ppg., 6.2 rpg.); C DeJuan Blair, 6-7, Soph. (15.6 ppg., 12.4 rpg.); G Levance Fields, 5-10, Sr. (10.7 ppg., 7.5 apg.).
Keys to the game: Playing their best basketball of the season, the Wildcats need to keep the momentum going against the Panthers, who have sputtered at times in their first three games of the tournament. In its 77-54 win over Duke in the regional semifinal, Villanova held the Blue Devils' shooting to 26.7 percent and limited star swingman Gerald Henderson to 1-of-14 shooting from the field. The Wildcats have limited their three NCAA opponents to 37.3 percent shooting and are outrebounding opponents by 14 boards per game.
The Panthers shot just 33.8 percent in a narrow win over Xavier and were held to a 44-44 deadlock on the boards. Still, they are one of the nation's top rebounding teams and will not be taken aback by the Wildcats' tough, physical play. Blair, who fouled out in the first Villanova game, has done a better job of staying out of foul trouble, and the Panthers have proven clutch performers in Young and Fields.
This should be a defensive battle, and the winning team could be the one that does the best job of avoiding foul trouble. In that regard, the Wildcats need to remain aggressive at the offensive end, and not settle for too much passive play in the half-court game and, worse yet, simply throw up three-pointers, which they are hitting at less than a 30 percent clip.
- Joe Juliano