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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

What To Look For

March 23, 2004|Chris Dufresne

SAINT JOSEPH'S vs. WAKE FOREST

STORY LINE: Billy Packer, CBS college basketball announcer, made news before the tournament when he criticized Saint Joseph's for receiving a top-seeding. So what happened? Saint Joseph's is one of only two No. 1 schools left standing after the first weekend and Packer draws the CBS assignment in East Rutherford, where the Hawks will play Wake Forest, Packer's alma mater. Stay tuned.

HOW THEY ADVANCED: Saint Joseph's easily dispatched Liberty in Round 1, 82-63, thanks largely to Jameer Nelson's 33 points, a season high. The Hawks had a tougher time with Bob Knight's Texas Tech team on Saturday before pulling out a 70-65 victory. Wake Forest narrowly avoided two early upsets, squeaking by No. 13 Virginia Commonwealth by one point and defeating No. 12 Manhattan by four in the second round.

COMMON OPPONENTS: Wake Forest beat Richmond at Winston-Salem, 81-66, and Saint Joseph's defeated the Spiders at Richmond, 71-60.

STYLE OF PLAY: Both are perimeter teams that strike with their guards. Wake Forest's three-guard set of Justin Gray, Chris Paul and Taron Downey has averaged 42 points a game. Saint Joseph's guard tandem of Nelson and Delonte West averages 39.3 points. Wake Forest averages 83.7 points, Saint Joseph's 77.7.

X FACTOR: Pat Carroll of Saint Joseph's. Nelson and West are the only Hawk players averaging double figures, but Carroll provided some much-needed outside punch with 14 points in the win over Texas Tech.

WHAT TO EXPECT: A possible thrilling game pitting two of the nation's best 6-feet-and-under point guards in Nelson and Paul.

PITTSBURGH vs. OKLAHOMA STATE

STORY LINE: The NCAA selection committee didn't do Pittsburgh any favors by slapping the school with a No. 3 seeding and sending the Panthers to Milwaukee in the first round. To its credit, Pittsburgh simply took care of business. Oklahoma State is one of the tournament's sentimental favorites as the Cowboys try to win a first title for 68-year-old Coach Eddie Sutton.

HOW THEY ADVANCED: Pittsburgh sideswiped Central Florida in the first round and then won a slugfest against Wisconsin, 59-55, in what was essentially a home game for the Badgers. Oklahoma State struggled early against Eastern Washington in the opening round before pulling away and then scored a resounding 70-53 victory over John Calipari's Memphis squad.

COMMON OPPONENTS: None.

STYLE OF PLAY: Both teams are tough defensive teams that tend to lead with their chins. Pittsburgh was built in the blue-collar mold of Ben Howland, who left the program to assistant Jamie Dixon. The Panthers are on pace to set a school record for fewest points allowed, holding opponents to an average of 56.2 points. On the flip side, no one preaches defense more than Sutton, whose Cowboys are allowing only 62 points a game while averaging 78.

X FACTOR: Sutton. Although he's a savvy veteran and the first coach to lead four schools to the tournament, Sutton still seeks his first national title. In Pittsburgh, he'll face a first-year coach in Dixon. Let's see how much experience counts in crunch time.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Don't be surprised if this game ends up somewhere in the 50s with the game-winning shot coming off a set-play after one of the teams forces a turnover.

-- Chris Dufresne

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