Momentum: No. 2 seed Duke. After Duke lost to North Carolina 79-71 on Tyler Hansbrough Day in Chapel Hill on March 8, Coach K said, "We're a better basketball team than we were a month ago, but they're really good." Five wins, an ACC tournament title and a Sweet 16 berth later, the Blue Devils look like a team coming together at the right time. On Saturday night, Duke rode Gerald Henderson (24 points on 7-of-21 shooting) to a tight victory over Texas, but it was other players who complemented him. Jon Scheyer displayed savvy in saving a loose ball, David McClure did his part on another loose ball and Kyle Singler (17 points) shot well. If Henderson, the Merion, Pa., native, can continue to get to the basket against the Villanova and Pitt, Duke could be dancing in Detroit.
Best Matchup: Pitt vs. Villanova. The battle for Pennsylvania bragging rights will play out on a neutral court in Boston if the bracket breaks the right way, and if it does, fans can expect the Big East powers to provide high-end entertainment. New York guards Levance Fields and Corey Fisher will offer flash when paired against each other and a Dante Cunningham-DeJuan Blair block fight would provide a nice contrast in styles of play.
Home cooking: None. 'Nova steps out of the comforts of the Wachovia Center and into the TD Banknorth Garden -- a venue which none of the four competing teams has ties to.
Burning question: Is Levance Fields really healthy? After an uncharacteristically sloppy opening-round performance (five assists, three turnovers) the man they call "The General" bounced back to dish out nine assists while turning the ball over just twice in Sunday's 84-76 second-round win over Oklahoma State. All his guile and sleight-of-hand passing will be necessary in order for the Panthers to beat Xavier and Villanova or Duke in Boston.
Difference maker: Dante Cunningham. Running rim-to-rim, there may not be a better forward in the country right now than the Big East's Most Improved Player. Able to get out on the break with Wright's ball-pushing guards, Cunningham provides the inside presence the 'Cats lacked in recent NCAA tournament runs. His boarding prowess will be a necessity if the Pitt matchup comes to fruition.
The pick: Villanova. In the lobby of the basketball offices at Villanova, coach Jay Wright presses a button that cues up One Shining Moment every time he enters or leaves the building. After reaching the second weekend for the fourth time in five years, he appears to have his well-balanced unit ready to take the next step. No word yet on whether he would purchase a new Hugo Boss suit to wear on such an occasion.
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