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Elite Eight: Hawks-Cowboys, Huskies-Tide


More from Vitale: Friday's Sweet 16 preview

(1) Saint Joseph's 84, (4) Wake Forest 80
The name is Martelli -- he's Italian, he's bald and his Saint Joseph's team is in the Elite Eight.

The backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West (24 points each) came through for coach Phil Martelli on Thursday night. West hit all six of his free throws, including two to ice the game in the closing seconds.

I said before the game that St. Joe's would need to hit at least 10 3-pointers to win (the Hawks were 12-of-24). The Hawks also did a great job defensively on point guard Chris Paul, who scored just 12 points (2-of-6 from the field). Give reserve Tyrone Barley lots of credit for that defensive effort. And wing Pat Carroll was 5-of-7 on trifectas (17 points overall).

St. Joe's marches on and will face Oklahoma State on Saturday for the right to go to the Final Four.

(2) Oklahoma State 63, (3) Pittsburgh 51
The Panthers' inability to score finally caught up with them. In the first two rounds of the tourney, Pittsburgh scored under 60 points in each game but was able to survive and advance thanks to a strong defensive effort.

But against Oklahoma State, the offense of guard Tony Allen and forward Joey Graham was too much. Allen showed why he was the Big 12 player of the year. He was a dominant force, scoring 23 points and making great one-on-one plays.

The Panthers couldn't hit perimeter shots consistently, and in this game it was their Achilles' heel. Pittsburgh's defense kept it close, and with the score tied 42-42 in the second half it was anybody's game.

But a late spurt by Oklahoma State put the contest out of reach and propelled the Cowboys into the Elite Eight. They got into transition and everyone contributed -- Graham and Allen along with point guard John Lucas (the Baylor transfer). The Cowboys also did an outstanding job defensively, containing Pitt's big men on the interior.

Now coach Eddie Sutton marches on to the Elite Eight. He has taken four different programs to the NCAA Tournament, and he's proven again why he's one of the best coaches in America.

It certainly was a great year for Pittsburgh's diaper dandy coach, Jamie Dixon, but for the third consecutive year Pitt has been bounced in the Sweet 16 (two years ago by Kent State, last year by Marquette and now by Oklahoma State).


(8) Alabama 80, (5) Syracuse 71
Wow, at this time of the year Alabama fans usually are concerned only with spring football. Not this year, baby! Coach Mark Gottfried has done a sensational job, and this is a sweet win since the Crimson Tide lost earlier this season to Big East opponents Pittsburgh and Providence. But the third time was the charm for Alabama.

It was Soph's Night Out for the Tide. Forward Kennedy Winston dominated in the first half, and forward Chuck Davis came up big in the second half. Davis, who averages 11 points per game, scored 19 vs. Syracuse.

Alabama's ability to hit big 3-pointers was a key to the victory (9-of-22 to 5-of-14 for the 'Cuse). Against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, it was so important to hit the 3-pointer, and Alabama did so to the tune of 40.9 percent. Alabama set the tone in the first half by hitting bit trifecta after big trifecta.

Forward Hakim Warrick had a solid first half and guard Gerry McNamara a solid second half for the Orangemen, but it wasn't enough.

So Alabama is in the Elite Eight for the first time ever. Can the Tide score the upset against Connecticut? We'll find out Saturday.

(2) Connecticut 73, (6) Vanderbilt 53
The Huskies jumped out to a 22-point first-half lead, but in the second half Vanderbilt made a run to cut the deficit to seven. Then guard Ben Gordon, forward Rashad Anderson and Co. ran away with it as UConn played its brand of basketball. When the Huskies are at the top of their game, nobody does it better in transition.

Center Emeka Okafor has been a dominant force and appears to be pain-free after struggling with a back injury late in the season. Okafor had another double-double Thursday (12 points, 11 rebounds). UConn dominated on the glass, with a 44-21 rebounding advantage. That helped make the difference.

Vanderbilt forward Matt Freije, who had 31 points in a second-round victory over NC State, scored only eight points on 3-of-18 shooting. UConn's defense concentrated on shutting down the Commodores' big star. Defensively and offensively, UConn was simply the better team.

UConn has not really been challenged yet in the tournament, with three wins by an average of 18 points per game. Calhoun, who won a national championship in '99, has to be smiling -- because his kids are 40 minutes away from a journey to the Final Four in San Antonio.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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