No. 5 Xavier vs. No. 12 Gonzaga 7:30 p.m. tonight, Edmundson Pavilion Players to watch: Zags PG Courtney Vandersloot has uncanny court vision...
No. 5 Xavier vs.
No. 12 Gonzaga
7:30 p.m. tonight,
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Players to watch: Zags PG Courtney Vandersloot has uncanny court vision to create shots for teammates, averaging 7.4 assists.
Xavier C Ta’Shia Phillips plays like Shaq inside the paint, shooting 61.3 percent from the floor.
What Gonzaga has to do to win: The Zags are going to look tiny, except at the point guard position. They have to adjust quickly and use their quickness to get around Xavier’s sizable roster. Defense is also going to be key, especially in trying to prevent the ball from getting inside. If Vandersloot can connect with F Heather Bowman inside, it’ll be a fun matchup.
What Xavier has to do to win: The Musketeers have to get serious and display their athletic talent. PG Special Jennings needs to do what she’s done all season — get the ball to Phillips. The team needs to keep up its tough defense: Xavier ranks seventh nationally, allowing 53.1 points per game.
Bottom line: Both teams want to shake the first-round losing blues, but Xavier has more motivation since it has made early exits in its past three appearances. Expect the Musketeers to come out with fire.
Prediction: Xavier 73, Gonzaga 69.
No. 4 Pittsburgh vs.
No. 13 Montana
5 p.m. today,
Players to watch: G Shavonte Zellous began the season as a Sports Illustrated cover girl and ended it as the Big East’s second-leading scorer (22.5). Montana’s senior-laden team gets its defensive spunk from F Britney Lohman, and G Mandy Morales is strong at the point.
What Montana has to do to win: The Griz have experience in playing tough guards, having faced Maryland’s Kristi Toliver in November. Morales has to focus on stopping Zellous’ signature pull-up jumper. Montana also needs to box-out to prevent Pitt from getting all the boards. Lohman is undersized at 6 feet 1, but has played solid against tall opponents in the past.
What Pitt has to do to win: The Panthers need to continue rebounding well (they averaged 43.9), and Zellous needs to continue to create for her teammates (3.0 assists) while finding her own shot. Montana is no slouch; if Pitt treats it as such, the Panthers will get beat.
Bottom line: Neither team is new to the tournament spotlight, but the Griz haven’t played a team as athletic as Pitt and probably won’t be able to keep up.
Prediction: Pitt 80, Montana 65.