Agganis Lives
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   Want some easy money tonight?

   Find some poor sucker who thinks UConn will be distracted by this whole Nate Miles recruiting contacts mess and is entirely convinced the House of Calhoun comes tumbling down.

   C'mon, do you really think one of the biggest badarses who's ever walked a Division 1 sideline is going to let his team be distracted by two days of breathless hype?

   One, it doesn't affect a thing about this season; Miles never played a game in Storrs and washed out before the season ever begun. UConn probably cooperates with the NCAA, and offers a penalty (maybe the loss of a scholarship for the next season or two). They're smart enough to take the punishment and move on.

   Two, although Jim took some hits in the non-sports media (and a scolding from the governor) over his combative stance with a reporter who questioned his salary at a postgame presser, he's got probably as much stroke as any coach in the country. Water off his back. (And if it gets too much, he's 66 and has all the money he needs - he can just retire, citing legitimate health reasons.)

   Three, this is a team capable of pummeling Purdue. Look what the Huskies did to Chatanooga and Texas A&M without having this kind of fire lit under them. The Boilermakers deserve a little more respect than I've given them so far, but under these circumstances...

   CONNECTICUT 89, PURDUE 61.

   Memphis-Missouri...potential six-digit game? Possible, though not likely. The Tigers from Columbia were slowed to a crawl and blew a 16-point lead against a Marquette team with a well below 100 percent Domenic James. They haven't exactly plowed through the tournament.

   The Tigers from B.B. King and Issac Hayes country took their wakeup call in Round 1, then ran rings around Maryland. If they don't get caught up in anticipating a monster game with UConn Saturday,  they roll.

   MEMPHIS 92, MISSOURI 78.

   Sean Miller was a scrapper in his days at Pittsburgh's point guard. He's bringing a Xavier team full of them tonight. The Musketeers have done a remarkable job of pulling themselves together after taking a nosedive in the final month of the regular season, which put them high on the list of high seeds ripe for an upset.

   The Panthers, however, finally showed me something Sunday. They stumbled through the first round, then allowed themselves to get caught in a track meet with Oklahoma State in the first half. After making it safely to the locker room with a tie, they woke up and let the air out of the ball...and OSU. DuJuan Blair has been the tough guy that twice powered Pitt past UConn, and he's getting the outside help when he needs it.

   PITTSBURGH 70, XAVIER 63.

   Hey, Villanova's got an inside-outside game. The Wildcats didn't get as much hype this year as they did in the days of the four-guard lineup, but better balance makes them the stealth threat to escape with a national title. Kinda' like the '85 team.

   Duke, meanwhile, is just a classic Sweet 16 team. They have the shooting and defense to crash the Final Four if it all comes together, but where's the leadership? It's a heritage program that's gone a little stale right now, although with the national team obligations gone, Coach K may be able to inject something new into it by next year.

   VILLANOVA 83, DUKE 78.  

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