What a week in Pitt basketball.
The Zoo witnessed Pitt’s first home and Big East loss of the season last Monday, and watched Pitt squeak out a nail biter at Rutgers. Pitt only fell to #4 in the polls though, because almost every team in the top 10 seemed to drop a game as well last week. Not sure why Texas is ranked above us though. Some analysts have begun to doubt the Panthers, because they feel as if its the same story as every year that Pitt doesn’t have a “go-to scorer” and has maxed out its talent. Anyone who has watched the Panthers this year though noticed a very solid uptick in the level of Pitt’s play after the loss to Tennessee. I wrote a few times in game write-ups that I expected Pitt to finally hit a snag and drop a game. That was the Notre Dame game. Notre Dame’s “burn” offense certainly tried the patience of Pitt. The seniors remarked after the game that they were being a little selfish with the ball, and not playing the way they had been to get to #2 in the country. The Rutgers game? A road game in the Big East in a hostile environment. And after that “down” week? Pitt is #1 in the Big East rankings with a 2 game lead on everyone. Pitt’s game versus Cincinnati on Saturday is one of the few home games left for the Panthers, however, with some tests at Nova, WVU, and Louisville looming down the road. Pitt will probably drop a game or two more before the season ends. That’s the way the Big East goes though.
For tomorrow’s game though, Cincinatti is having a up-down kind of season. After going 15-0 to start the season and be ranked in the top 25, they’ve dropped four of their last seven. While some of their losses are against the top teams in the conference, their wins come from the dregs of the conference. The only thing they are top 100 in is assists/per game at #81. They are a terrible shooting team at 202nd in the country. The Bearcats are lead by junior guard Dion Dixon, who averages 12.0 pts/game and 1.8 assists/game. Their top assist maker by far is Yancy Gates at 3.7 assists/game. Pitt, however, has 3 guards averaging more than 3 assists/game, with Brad Wannamaker at 5.3 assists/game. Pitt is a lot better at distributing the ball and finding the open man. The Bearcats are similar to the Panthers in how many guys they play. Like Pitt, they get their points from a lot of different contributors. One thing to watch for is the battle down low between Yancy Gates (Yancy, really?) and Gary McGhee. Gates is around the same height but actually a little heavier than McGhee, which has not been the case for most of the year with Pitt’s opponents. We’ll have to see if McGhee can beat him down low for points/rebounds. Both teams have had a week off since their last game, so I expect to see a little bit of a shaky start for both teams as the game gets going.
Since its a Saturday evening game, I expect the Zoo to be full (as it has been lately, which is great to see). I’m not expected a nail biter of a game, but I expect it to be within a 10 pt game for most of it with Pitt winning it. I’m hoping that the Pitt players are focused enough to be 100% on top of this game. With the Superbowl, and WVU, it would be easy to overlook this game for them. I’m also hoping these guys are smart tomorrow night, and ARE ready for WVU come Monday.
In other news, I’m trying to come up some new ideas for the Oakland Zoo to do as cheers next year. I heard ESPN’s show “Around the Horn” was talking about if Utah State was one of the best atmospheres in college basketball. While I still think the Zoo is more legitimate/better, I have to give props to these guys. Here, here, and here are some examples of what these guys do. Other student sections are trying to be more creative and create a really tough atmosphere like the Oakland Zoo does for games. If we want to have one of the best atmosphere’s in the country, we have to keep things fresh. So send me some ideas on twitter or facebook.
P.S. If someone can figure out a way to get everyone to do the P-I-T-T chant TOGETHER and in TIME, I will give you a big cookie. When we do it right, it sounds awesome. When we don’t, well it doesn’t sound awesome.
I’ll be tweeting from the game (@sta7ic) along with @OaklandZoo. Hail to Pitt.
And Go Steelers!