Big test tomorrow night- the 9th ranked Panthers take on the 6th ranked Duke Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden, in what should be an incredibly exciting basketball game. After coming off a great win against Oklahoma State, I really think the Panthers can beat the Blue Devils, but it will take a great performance from all around in order to do it. Duke, like the Cowboys, is heavy on outside shooting- freshman Kyle Singler and Taylor King, juniors Gerald Henderson and Greg Paulus, and senior DeMarcus Nelson are all a threat to shoot from outside. This team will be similar to OK State in that aspect, but they are a much better shooting team- much less likely to come out and shoot below 30% from beyond the arc. The team average is about 42%, and I would hope Pitt’s perimeter defense will keep them at or below that number.
However, Duke is not a great defensive team, nor are they a great rebounding one- and this is where the Panthers will really have to play their game. We’ll be able to take this if Dejuan Blair can stay out of foul trouble and we don’t get lazy on the offensive boards. It was very encouraging to see the Panthers really put in a strong effort for 40 full minutes last Saturday, and I would expect to see more of the same on Thursday night. DeJuan Blair and Sam Young are our two most important players as usual- they will have to use their size and inside presence to get the majority of the rebounds and score inside, taking advantage of the perimeter nature of Duke. If we can win this game, it would mean huge recognition for Pitt on a national scale- even though we’re a top-10 team, we haven’t been getting that much press nationally, though this game would certainly change that.