Fields Eyes Up Marquette

As reported in the Post-Gazette, Fields has told reporters today that he hopes to be back in playing shape by Valentine’s Day, which means he wants to play at Marquette on February 15.

I have known for a while now that his injury status and expected date of return were a bit overestimated, and was told that Fields is so eager to return that he claimed he wanted to play versus Georgetown. Obviously his doctors laughed at him and said no.

What this means is that the much publicized misfortune of Pitt’s 2008 tournament hopes were grossly exaggerated. I am obviously a harsh critic of sports reporters and this is no exception. Jamie Dixon has notably changed the way he is preparing the players in response to the injuries, and the players are obviously buying into it and excelling.

For Pitt to be playing as well as they are right now, with the expectation of Fields to make a return in just about a month, every Pitt fan should smile. As long as the Panthers can grind out the next seven games, they should be in excellent shape to enter the Big East Tournament.

Pitt has two road games that they should be able to handle. Cincinnati is a big question mark in my mind. I watched them on TV against St. John’s and they both looked awful, yet somehow Cincinnati has put together an impressive conference record so far. I would expect them to play with some real heart at home this weekend. Pitt has a habit of following up a big win with less than expected intensity (Duke and Dayton, for example). I’ll be traveling back to Ohio to see it, and I don’t foresee anything resembling Dayton, hopefully I am correct.

St. John’s on the road is always a game that challenges Pitt. I had long been of the opinion that our players suffered when playing in front of a close-to-home audience. Now that Pitt has a lot fewer New York natives, that variable should not matter as much. The only win St. John’s has in the conference is Cincinnati. I have a feeling that, barring a slip-up this weekend, Ronald and Keith will have settled into their roles as much as they ever will, and this game should be far less trying than in the past.

I am predicting that this weekend we see Sam Young bounce back from his only game without 10+ points so far this year. I also believe that Jamie will try to get Gary McGhee into some action as well. I was very excited that he got some minutes against Georgetown, but with such foul calls, obviously his time would be cut short.

New York, New York

Just thought I would give everyone an update. I am currently sitting in Manhattan waiting for the night session of the tournament watching Tommy Boy and drinking some “beverages” with the Zoo leadership. We have been here since yesterday morning and are pumped like crazy for the game. The Zoo will definitely out in force at the Garden tonight.

I watched the entire Marquette-St. John’s game at the team bar last night, let’s hope that Marquette team shows up. James looked really bad last night but I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance. The guy for us to watch out for is Fitzgerald he played great last night because he got open looks. Whoever is guarding him, probably Mike Cook, needs to watch him at all times because he has hurt us this year and is playing great basketball. Overall, if Marquette plays like last night we will beat them.

I will be able to give updates all week from the tournament and the atmosphere surrounding it. For one night only LETS GO MOUNTAINEERS. Taking out Louisville could make our trip to the final easier because Georgetown isn’t going to get a game until the final.

Villanova: Bigger Game Than People Think?

Looking at the standings, seeing Villanova’s 3-4 conference record, I’d like to go into tomorrow night full of optimism.

This Villanova squad lost to Syracuse and DePaul, so that ought to bode well for us. But something in my mind urges me to not count them out.

Could it be that in the past 10 games, Pitt and Villanova are split 5-5? Could it be that Villanova, despite some bad marks, are ranked 17th in the RPI? Could it be that even with our amazing 8th ranked SOS, they are higher with 7? Could it be that their record of 2-2 against ranked opponents is better than our 0-3?

The fact of the matter is that Villanova is a better team than their record shows. Their sub-.500 record in conference gives them more reason to attack this game. A third win over a ranked team would like mighty good when people look at their stat sheet in March.

I think a big part of this game will be Pitt’s recent inconsistency. Will we see our guards light it up with 60% from the arc, or end up under 30% like they did yesterday? Will they get 23 assists to 7 turnovers like yesterday, or will they trip over their feet and throw balls into the seats like we’ve seen before?

If Pitt takes Villanova as seriously as I do, I think they will know how to handle themselves. If Pitt goes in rushed, and overconfident, I think we might see some less than satisfying minutes.

My prediction: Pitt 67, Villanova 59.
[EDIT: Actual score: Pitt 65, Villanova 59. I’m good.]

St. Johns WIll Not Win The Big East

I’m going out on a limb after their performance yesterday and say that St. John’s will not need to worry about winning the Big East. The game was never even close, Pitt dominated from the beginning. Like one of my friends said after the game, “Pitt showed how to play like a top 10 team and St. John’s showed what you need to do to miss the conference tournament.”

As far as individual performances, I’m going to go back to what I say after every game, solid performance from Graves. I am the leader of the Antonio Graves bandwagon and anybody who watched the Oklahoma State game can tell you this is the most unexpected thing ever. He is really keeping himself under control and has become a much more solid basketball player. Coach Dixon is rewarding him with more minutes and I am very impressed with his turnaround. Mike Cook put in a pretty solid performance but nothing really jumps out at you. Levon and his closely trimmed hair appeared to rebound a little better yesterday but that may have been due to the lack of any presence.

Let us know what you think about the games and the Zoo and leave a comment on the articles.