Total too high for Big East twosome

Pittsburgh forward DeJuan Blair can be a force on the offensive end of the court. It helps that he's built like a defensive end at 6 feet 7 inches and 265 pounds.

The strength of the Big East Conference will be on display today when Blair and the Panthers meet league opponent Villanova in the East Regional final at Boston. Top-seeded Pitt is a 2-point favorite.

The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall said he expects a "bump-and-grind" game with a physical style that resembles football. But instead of siding with Blair, Marshall is backing the underdog Wildcats and betting under the total of 1421/2.

"The total is looking way too high to me," Marshall said. "When these teams get together, they know each other so well, it looks like a replay every time. It's a halfcourt game. The shot clock is running below 10 seconds on most possessions. I don't see a lot of transition buckets.

"That's the pattern of every Villanova-Pitt game the past couple years. It looks like a 64-58 sort of game, and that would put it way under the total."

In the teams' previous meeting this season, the Wildcats beat the Panthers 67-57 on Jan. 28 at Philadelphia. Limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble, Blair had just seven points and eight rebounds.

Pitt and Villanova split two games last season, combining to score 127 and 126 points.

The Panthers, 0-3 against the spread in this NCAA Tournament, squeaked past Xavier 60-55 on Thursday. Blair had 10 points and 17 rebounds, and forward Sam Young and point guard Levance Fields made big plays late.

Marshall said Pitt has appeared to be a tired team in the postseason. The opposite has been true of Villanova, which blew out UCLA 89-69 in the second round and dismantled Duke 77-54 on Thursday.

The well-rounded Wildcats are getting strong play from 6-8 forward Dante Cunningham, guard Scottie Reynolds and many others.

"Reynolds is hard for Pitt's guards to handle," Marshall said. "Pitt lacks a little explosiveness right now. Villanova looks better every game."

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at or at 702-387-2907.


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