Pittsburgh Panthers (26-9) vs. Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (24-8)
When: Thursday, 2:30 p.m.
1. No one recruits NY like Pitt. Pitt coaches regularly take trips to New York and hand out the majority of their scholarships to the best players they can find. On this year's team, five players are from the NYC area, including starters Levance Fields, Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin. No wonder Pitt plays so well at Madison Square Garden. Their record there since 2001 is 20-8. Isiah, eat your heart out.
2. Always a bridesmaid. Yeah, that's Pitt for sure. Pitt has appeared in several Big East championship games and has won only once. Things don't get much better when the NCAA tourney starts. If there's been any consistency in this program the last seven years, it's been Pitt's tendency to get to the dance and not advance past the first week. The latest disappointment/kick in the balls: former Pitt coach Ben Howland and UCLA sent the Panthers packing in the Sweet 16 on route to a Final Four appearance.
3. The beast of the Big East is a freshman and wears a Pitt jersey. Dejuan Blair, who played his high school ball in a gym just off campus, was third in the league in rebounding and fifth in steals. Blair took home Rookie of the Year honors in the conference as a 6'7" center. Feel free to refer to him as "The Grizzly Blair." — Pat Sehn
ORAL ROBERTS GOLDEN EAGLES
1. Three In A Row. It's the third consecutive tournament appearance for the Golden Eagles, and their seed seems to grow each year. Two years ago, they were a No. 16 seed, and one major national basketball analyst predicted them to beat No. 1 seed Memphis. (Didn't happen.) In 1973, the team reached the Elite Eight before losing to Kansas in overtime. Kansas is now coached by Bill Self, who started his coaching career at ORU, back before he wore a toupee.
2. Parting The Red Defense. The Golden Eagles were led in scoring by Robert Jarvis (not the guy who invented the artificial heart), but it was led to the tournament by Biblically named Moses Ehambe, who was the Summit League Tourney MVP. He was also his Arlington, Texas high school prom king.
3. Bears Repeating. I mention this in their tournament preview every year, because it absolutely must be mentioned any time the Golden Eagles are mentioned anywhere for anything. The school was indeed founded (and humbly named) by Oral Roberts, who is most famous, of course, for telling his parishioners in 1986 that if they did not raise $8 million by March of that year, God would "call him home. (Sadly, we didn't get to find out if Roberts really had such a conversation with the Almighty; they hit the number.) Roberts has claimed to have personally raised the dead and, last year, said that a vision of a "cloud over New York" has told him Christ is coming soon. (After he dies, Roberts has told followers that he plans to return and rule the world with Christ.)" — Will Leitch