The Statement Game

A Tha-beat down

Merry Christmas!

Some pregame insight for when the #4 UConn Huskies come to play our #6 Pitt Panthers on Monday Night.

One of the biggest factors for this game (and for any of Pitt’s games, in fact) is that this game is being played at the Pete. The Panthers have won 47 out of their last 48 games at the Pete, with the loss in that stretch coming last year to Georgetown. More importantly, UConn hasn’t won a game at the Pete since Feb 26th 2005. That was the year of the worst (being a relative term) team record-wise under Jamie Dixon. The Oakland Zoo should be bumping for this game. It goes without saying that you will sorely be missing out if you miss this game.  It also turns out, that this game is a gold-out, and fans will receive a free, gold “This is Our House” t-shirt. You now have no excuse not to come if there is a free t-shirt involved. Maybe the Crying Calhoun towels will also be making a comeback?

Crying Calhoun Towel

To the expectations of the game:

Pitt’s biggest concern is also the most obvious: Kemba Walker. The 6’1 junior guard is the primary reason the Huskies have surprised everyone this year on their way to a top-5 ranking. He averages 26.5 pts per game (2nd in the country) with a decent 42.1% from beyond the arc. He’s quick, smart, and doesn’t turn the ball over a whole lot. If Pitt can limit his production, it will go a long way towards a victory, considering he scores about a 1/3 of the Huskies’ points each game

The second concern is that this may be the first team that’s as good at rebounding the ball as the Panthers are. Pitt is #2 in the country at crashing the boards, while UConn is #4 with Alex Oriakhi leading the Huskies at 9.9 rebounds per game. The Panthers have 5 different players that pull in at least 5 rebounds per game being a little more balanced, while Oriakhi pulls the majority for the Huskies, with 3 others over 5 rpg. The Panthers are best in the country in terms of assists, however, with Brad Wannamaker leading the team at 5.6 per game. The Panthers have to keep distributing the ball well, and being patient on offense. As always, grind the other team down. Pitt has such great depth, and should be able to hopefully wear the Huskies down as the game progresses as they’re are a fairly young team. Walker will kill the Panthers if they allow him to take the tempo too high. Pitt does also have a terrible problem of not stomping out teams early, though. They never seem to go for the neck to end an opponent’s chances. This seems to be linked to Pitt being able to finish around the rim. Layups, layups, layups. Guys like Nasir, Talib, and Dante do a good job of getting to the rim, but have to be able to finish.  I’m also hoping the Panthers take some extra free-throws this weekend, because they are a woeful 65% from the line (I’m looking at you Gary, Mr 42.5 %. Gibbs makes a higher percentage of 3’s (44%) then McGhee does free throws)

Finally, this will be a huge statement game for the Panthers. I still think the Panthers are a top-10 team, even after the loss to Tennessee. I feel a lot better about that close game with Texas in MSG after they just romped Michigan State Wednesday night.  Overall, this team is more balanced than the Huskies are, and if they play the way they did against teams like Texas, they can win this fairly comfortably. If they come out slow with no fight, however, this could very easily be another Tennessee game. This will be the beginning of a brutal (but favorable) schedule for the Panthers in the Big East. Pitt, UConn, Syracuse, Nova, and Georgetown are all in the top-10. with Notre Dame and Louisville bringing up the rear of the top-25. If Pitt wins this game, they are legit a top-5 team and can set themselves up for a nice run in March.

One step at a time. Hail to Pitt

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The Play-in Game?

I want to discuss Drew’s comment on the previous post.  Joe Lunardi has us seeded as the overall number 1 seed.  Obviously this is all a bunch of far-reaching speculation until we know about the draft and where recruits sign.  However, this seeding still makes me nervous.  It’s nice to be respected, but do we deserve it?  I’m not even sure I can handle this type of respect.  We as Pitt fans are so used to having to fight for any type of recognition that this feels like foreign territory.

Have we as a team taken that step where we’re always expected to do well, and especially do well enough to be the best team in the country?  Do we want that as fans?
I have no idea what to think of this and, like I said, right now we can all laugh at this because it’s way too early to be talking about this stuff.
I want to hear from all of you who feel inclined to comment.
How does Lunardi’s prediction make you feel?
Hail to Pitt.
Posted in ESPN, rank. 7 Comments »

Never Too Early to Get Excited

Apparently, it’s also not too early for ESPN to look ahead to next year’s college basketball season. However, I must say that looking at these rankings did provide me with a little bit of a shocker:

3. Pitt
Why? The Panthers return their entire core from a team that was in the Sweet 16 and only continued to get better as it got healthier. Levance Fields comes back at the point and DeJuan Blair and Sam Young are the anchors in the post. And there is still a chance that Mike Cook could get a sixth-year to come back from his severe knee injury.

Why not? There’s not much to pick apart here. The Panthers should be the pick to win the Big East with a team that won the conference tournament title despite being so injury-riddled.

That’s right. Third. In the country. Now, I’m not saying he’s wrong. I sure hope Mr. Katz was fully sober when he wrote this. If we get the same starting lineup I hope we will have (Fields, Young, Blair, Brown, and either Wanamaker/Dixon/Robinson), we have an incredibly deep, talented, and experienced team. We’re certainly not one to be taken lightly, but it was still a bit of a shocker to see us placed third in the country. This is surely apt to change, but not a bad article to read anyways.

Mr. Katz also firmly believes that the Big East will be the best conference in the country. He has Notre Dame at #5, West Virginia at #6 (under the assumption that Joe Alexander will be back, which is a fairly good one), UConn at #7, Syracuse and Georgetown at numbers 18 and 19, followed by Louisville at 21. That’s right, 1/3 of the top 21 teams in the country are from the Big East. I think that’s a little ridiculous (if we’re all beating each other up, nobody will be able to stay too highly ranked) but in terms of actual basketball talent, it’s not too far-fetched. Anyways, please don’t comment and yell at me about how these preseason rankings are meaningless (like the AP rankings are meaningful anyways), I’m just starting to look ahead to next year.

Posted in ESPN, rank. 3 Comments »

ESPN College GameDay

We are really excited to be hosting ESPN’s College GameDay tomorrow all day. They will be filming a live shot at 10 a.m. and then the show will run from 11-noon on the floor of the Pete, and then they will be broadcasting throughout the day. It’s the first time they will be coming here for basketball and a great opportunity for us to showcase the school, the team, the beautiful Petersen Events Center, and last, but definitely not least, you guys… the Zoo. Come out early, bring your signs (keep them clean but creative), and stay all day for the events. It’ll be a great day and a great opportunity to showcase Pitt basketball and Pitt as a whole.