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WEEK TWO PREVIEW: MINNEAPOLIS REGION
March 23, 2006

Also See > Complete Minneapolis Region Preview

(1) VILLANOVA vs (4) BOSTON COLLEGE

SCS.com Not only is this a matchup of two former Big East rivals, it may also be the best matchup of the entire Sweet Sixteen round. It's a classic battle of two squads with completely opposite approaches to the game of college basketball. The Wildcats' four guard lineup has taken them to a season-long top five ranking, while the Eagles' grind-it-out, pound-it-down-low approach helped them win 28 games this year, including 12 of their last 14. The two squads have combined to lose just 11 times all season and only five times since February 1. The injury to 'Nova guard Allan Ray has brought the 'Cats some attention over the past two weeks, and though the senior averages 19 points per game and is one of the best players in America, he doesn't even lead the team in scoring. That honor is bestowed upon (of course) another guard, Randy Foye. Also a senior, Foye scores more than 20 per game, and like Ray, he is a sharp-shooter from beyond the arc. Fellow guards Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi average about 11 apiece each night out, and the latter leads the team in three-point shooting. Will Sheridan, a 6'8" forward, has stepped up his play on the inside this season, while 6'9" Jason Fraser has battled injury but still gives his best down low as well. Freshman Dante Cunningham has come on strong, and he - as well as Sheridan and Fraser - will have to be on their game come Friday night for the 'Cats to prevail.

That's because the Eagles boast one of the top inside combos in the entire country. Forwards Craig Smith and Jared Dudley combine to average 34 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and a blocked shot each night out. They have been dominant down low for most of the season and have been hard to stop by everyone they've faced. Consider the personnel the Wildcats play with, and it looks as if it could be a huge night for the two big men. But for that pair to have ultimate success, the BC guards will have to prove they can get the job done as well. Junior Sean Marshall is a capable three-point shooter and the only other Eagle who averages double-digits. Tyrese Rice, just a freshman, scores 9 per night, while senior Louis Hinnant has stepped up his game in recent weeks and is actually the best three-point shooter the Eagles have at nearly 45%. So whose style will prevail? Will the Wildcats out-run and out-shoot the Eagles, or will BC out-muscle and out-work Villanova into the Elite Eight? Either way, it should be one of the best matchups of the entire weekend.

STAFF PREDICTIONS
BEN CORTNEY DAVID JEFF JONATHAN REED
Villanova BC Villanova BC Villanova BC

(3) FLORIDA vs (7) GEORGETOWN

Now, seriously.... Who thought these two would matchup on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament back in November? Anyone? Didn't think so. Billy Donovan has taken his young Gator squad as high as the number two-ranked team in America, while John Thompson III has moulded an overlooked Hoyas team into one of the Big East's best clubs. After winning the SEC Tournament title in Nashville, UF picked up right where they left off last weekend, steam-rolling over South Alabama in round one before dismantling upset-happy Wisconsin-Milwaukee in round two to advance. Georgetown, meanwhile, took down Northern Iowa in their first NCAA outing and then upset second-seeded Ohio State to earn their way into the Sweet Sixteen. One the biggest reasons for the Hoyas' success this season has been the play of 7'2" sophomore Roy Hibbert. The big man has averaged nearly 17 points per game over GU's last three outings and is the team's leading rebounder. Fellow sophomore Jeff Green leads the team in scoring with a dozen per outing, and he grabs nearly 7 rebounds per game himself. Seniors Brandon Bowman and Ashanti Cook, who round out Georgetown's double-figure scorers, will be counted on to step up their game as the Hoyas try to keep their season alive. The only other two Hoyas who score significant points are guards Darrel Owens and Jonathan Wallace, each averaging about 8 points and a couple of boards per outing.

While GU's top two scorers are sophomores, the Gators depend on even more youngsters to get the job done. After the departure of the likes of Anthony Roberson, Matt Walsh, and David Lee following the 2005 season, a large portion of the work was left up to four sophomores. Big man Joakim Noah was a force in the SEC this season. He averages nearly 14 points per game while grabbing 7 rebounds and blocking a pair of shots each night out. Guards Taurean Green and Corey Brewer can be streaky from beyond the arc, but each is stingy on defense and averages about 13 points per contest. Sophomore Al Horford and junior Lee Humphrey round Florida's double-figure scorers. Each accounts for about 11 per game, and the latter is the team's best shooter from downtown. Watching Noah go up against Hibbert down low should be fun to watch, but their play is likely to cancel each other out. So the attention then turns to the guards. Which team's three-point masters will be on their game? The answer to that question is likely to determine the winner on Friday night, and in turn the one who will advance to the Elite Eight.

STAFF PREDICTIONS
BEN CORTNEY DAVID JEFF JONATHAN REED
Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida

REGIONAL FINAL

The staff appears to have no doubt that the Gators will advance, but there is some question as to who UF will meet on Sunday. And the decision as to who earns the Minneapolis Region's Final Four bid is certainly up in the air as well. The Villanova/BC winner will bring in a tough, experienced club, while the UF/GU winner will be a fairly young and inexperienced squad. Which group will advance to Indianapolis?

STAFF PREDICTIONS
BEN CORTNEY DAVID JEFF JONATHAN REED
Florida BC Florida Florida Villanova BC

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