Here come the Irish.
I’ll keep this one fairly short. This game should be an interesting one. Pitt is coming off a thumping of DePaul on Saturday, while Notre Dame (#14/#15) is coming off a close win against Marquette at home (Does Marquette ever win their close games?). The Irish have shown flashes of being a great team this year, beating UConn and Georgetown. However, they are terrible on the road. They haven’t won a true road game all season in fact. This is the ultimate test for Notre Dame, and could help to define their season. A really good way to turn your troubles on the road around is to beat the country’s #2 team in the Oakland Zoo. There’s not many harder places to win in the country. Notre Dame, statistically speaking, is not the greatest of teams. They are top 20 in assists/game and top 50 in pts/game. Pitt has moved up to be the top team in rebounds and assists and top 20 in points/game and field goal percentage.
Notre Dame, though, had Pitt’s number last season. They handled the Panthers at home, and edged out a nail-biter in the Big East tournament. Pitt was one of Notre Dame’s many victims of its transition to a Luke Harangody-less offense. This year, the Irish are led by Ben Hansborough, younger brother of All-American and National Championship winner Tyler Hansborough. Hansborough is, stats wise, the mirror image of Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs. He’s a solid scorer at 16.4 pts/game and is a solid free throw and 3 pt shooter. The advantage for Pitt, as the case has been a lot this year, is it’s depth and front court. The Irish play 6 guys the majority of the team, averaging at least 29 minutes/game. The 7th guy down plays 11, 8th guy, 5.5. They really rely on those six guys to play the game. Pitt has 9 players that average at last 12 minutes a game. I have a feeling Pitt’s patience on offense will wear down the Irish on defense, and consequentially Notre Dame’s offense and shooting will suffer. Notre Dame used the 2-3 zone against Marquette on Saturday to great effect when the Irish were having trouble preventing them from scoring. Pitt, on the other hand, put on a clinic last week on how to tear down a zone.
Considering how bad Notre Dame is on the road, and how good Pitt is at home, I’m comfortable with Pitt winning a close one. It’s 4:30, and the Zoo is already lined up to the doors. Time for me to make my way down there.
@OaklandZoo and @sta7ic for tweets from the game.