Saint Mary's 6-foot-11 forward Omar Samhan pulls no punches discussing the importance of his upcoming battle against Baylor's 6-10 forward Ekpe Udoh. He believes Friday's Sweet 16 game at Houston's Reliant Stadium could hinge on it.
"I do. I think it's a very important matchup," Samhan, the dominant player in the NCAA tournament so far, averaging 30.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in two wins, said Monday on a teleconference. "There's also the guard matchup that's going to be huge, but I think the bigs have really dictated a lot for their teams this year, me and him, and I think it's going to be a key matchup."
So how does the 265-pound senior like his chances against the junior Udoh, who said he weighs in at about 240 pounds "on a good day"?
"Well, the biggest challenges is he can jump and I can't. Um, he's fast and I'm not. He's strong and I'm not. A lot of the challenges are physical," Samhan, laughing, yet halfway serious. "Like I said, he's a great athlete, but I'm pretty skilled down low. Although I'll have trouble guarding him, I think he'll have trouble guarding me. The biggest thing is he going to go one-on-one with me or are they going to run that zone? We don't really know what they're going to do."
Baylor will stick mostly with their 2-3 zone, why change now? That means Baylor's back line of Udoh, 7-foot Josh Lomers -- 6-7 Quincy Acy when he's in and Lomers is out -- and lanky 6-10 Anthony Jones will have their hands full containing Samhan, who has increased his scoring by 10 points from the regular season and is shooting 75 percent in two NCAA tournament games.
"It's going to be tough, we're just going to have to pick and choose when we switch out [of zone to man-to-man]," Udoh said. "I've watched him play, he's a bigger guy, he has a European taste to his game, I mean, it's going to be fun."
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he tried everything against Samhan and nothing worked.
"If they go one-on-one I think it will be a good matchup and could be a good battle in there," Samhan said. "If they go zone or double-team I'll probably have to kick out more, so we won't be able to see me go to work that much against him."