2:40 pm EDT Florida (-6.5) Oregon - Tajuan Porter has silenced a lot of critics over the short course of his Oregon career. On Sunday, he'll get the opportunity to do it again.
Porter, easily the smallest player in the tournament at 5'6", put on a giant of a performance Friday night in Oregon's 76-72 win over UNLV, hitting 8 3-pointers and totaling 33 points, tying him with Tyler Hansbrough for the high single-game mark of the tournament.
Once again, Porter and the Ducks find themselves underdogs as they match up with the reigning national champions. Florida dispatched a pesky Butler squad on Thursday, 65-57, coming from behind as they have in all three of their tournament games thus far. They will try to get off to a faster start against the quicker Ducks.
The Gators have a huge size advantage inside with Joakim Noah and Al Horford anchoring the middle. The Ducks have no real center and actually start four guards along with forward Maarty Leunen, who stands 6'8" and specializes in outside shooting. While Leunen may draw one of Florida's big men outside when the Ducks are on offense, he's going to get backed down inside against Horford along with Malik Hairston, who will likely be matched up with Noah. Stopping those two inside is Oregon's biggest problem, one which they'll likely handle by denying them the ball on defense.
It wouldn't surprise anyone to see the Ducks press off made baskets to at least slow Florida's offense. Pressure and hitting 3-pointers will be the key to Oregon's success and they will get it done as their trio of sharpshooting guards, Porter, Aaron Brooks and Bryce Taylor make a shambles of Florida's backcourt. The Gators' dream of back-to-back championships dies here.
5:05 pm EDT North Carolina (-3.5) Georgetown - The Tar Heels struggled mightily against an upset minded USC squad on Thursday before blowing the game open late and advancing. USC ran out of gas as Carolina coach Roy Williams used his deep bench to maximum advantage, outscoring the Trojans 41-22 in the second half.
Georgetown stared elimination in the face and, as time wore down, came up with a huge shot by forward Jeff Green to oust the upset-minded Vanderbilt Commodores 66-65. Green's bank shot with 2.5 seconds remaining left Vandy without enough time to get off a quality shot at the buzzer.
The Hoyas are hoping that this round will be a little less dramatic, though putting away the Tar Heels isn't going to be easy. Along with Green, the other key inside player, Roy Hibbert, will have to be on top of his game to stop the aggressive inside play of Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright. It's likely that Wright and Green will match up against each other, which would be one of the best pairings of the season. Both forwards are athletic, strong and can get up on the boards. It's doubtful either will have much of an edge, and may actually end up canceling each other out.
Hibbert and Hansbrough will battle inside, and the edge goes to Hansbrough, who, though smaller, at 6'9", is more agile and mobile than the seven-foot Hibbert. If Hansbrough is able to operate on the low post, the Tar Heels could cruise to the Final Four.
In the backcourt, once again Jonathan Wallace and Patrick Ewing Jr. of the Hoyas become the wild cards. If they can provide some offense with 3-pointers and penetration, Georgetown can hang around against the much deeper Tar Heels.
North Carolina will look to get out and run, while the Hoyas will try to turn the game into a half-court mosh. If Hibbert stays out of foul trouble, Georgetown's overall length should offset Carolina's depth and book the Hoyas a trip to Atlanta.