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Previewing Saturday's NCAA tournament regional finals

Missouri takes on Connecticut in the West, and Pittsburgh faces Villanova in the East.

March 28, 2009|Brentley Romine, Orlando Sentinel

Here's a look at today's NCAA tournament regional championship games. Times are Pacific:

No. 3 Missouri (31-6) vs. No. 1 Connecticut (30-4), 1:30 p.m. -- The happiest man in America today might be Jimmy Sexton, the agent for hot-as-lava Missouri Coach Mike Anderson. After Anderson's Tigers steamrollered second-seeded Memphis, 102-91, to move to within one victory of their first Final Four appearance, he's in line for a fat raise -- from Missouri or another school that covets his fast-paced style of play. Missouri would like to force Connecticut into an uncomfortably frenetic pace designed to wear down opponents and turn turnovers into easy points. UConn would prefer a slower game that enables the likes of big man Hasheem Thabeet to dominate the paint. The 7-foot-3 center had 15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots in a 72-60 win over fifth-seeded Purdue on Thursday. But if the Huskies get off to a slow start as they did against Purdue, it could be a long night, especially if UConn shoots anywhere near the 39.4% it shot in the first half against the Boilermakers. The Huskies can't afford to make too many mistakes or Missouri's Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll will feast on the opportunities.

No. 3 Villanova (29-7) vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh (31-4), 4 p.m. -- A Big East team will punch a ticket to the Final Four. Villanova senior forward Dante Cunningham scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to help the Wildcats knock off No. 2-seeded Duke, 77-54, on Thursday -- Villanova's first win over the Blue Devils in more than 50 years. As a result, the Wildcats advanced to their second regional final in the last four seasons. Pittsburgh received a scare from Xavier before defeating the Musketeers, 60-55, Thursday. Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair might be the best big man in the tournament, and a big game from him would certainly increase the Panthers' chances of winning. But Pittsburgh will also need solid play from Sam Young and Levance Fields if it is to make it to the Final Four for the first time. Young is averaging 21.7 points and Fields has 20 assists this postseason. The Wildcats are holding opponents to 63.3 points a game, including limiting Duke to its lowest point total (54) in school tournament history. The last time these teams faced each other, Villanova held Blair to seven points in a 67-57 win over the visiting Panthers on Jan. 28.

West Regional

East Regional

-- Brentley Romine, Orlando Sentinel

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