BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: DePaul @ Pittsburgh
January 12, 2006
The DePaul Blue Demons, fresh off their first Big East conference win last Saturday travel to Pittsburgh to face nationally ranked and undeferated Pitt tonight. The Panthers are 12-0 on the season.
Each team defeated Notre Dame in their last game. For Pitt, the win came eight days ago and was a thrilling double OT 100-97 win. DePaul raced out to a 23-6 lead on the Irish, at home, and held on after the Irish tied the game in the second half and won 73-67.
DePaul has already won games on the road against Dayton and Wake Forest and also beat Cal on a neutral floor that was more or less a home game for the Bears. They have also lost to Northern Illinois on the road early in the year and have also been beaten badly in road trips to Old Dominion and Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh does have to like the match-up with DePaul as the Blue Demons do not shoot the ball very well from beyond the arc (just 31.9% on the season), they do not rebound very well and they will likely be without a strong offensive post presence to challenge Aaron Gray defensively. Although, they might get the services of Wesley Green back, but it would be on a very limited basis for this game if they do. Green would be the offensive threat that would force Gray to work a little harder on defensive and could get him in to a little foul trouble.
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DePaul does have Sammy Mejia, a 6'5 junior guard who is averaging 15.6 PPG, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game and has an excellent mid-range game. This is the type of player that can also give the Panthers some trouble as they do seem to lack a big guard that can defend physically at this point in time.
Pittsburgh will be coming off their longest layover of the season, eight days, and that is always somewhat of an unknown variable for how a team will play. DePaul won away from home against Wake Forest and California after each team had a long layover for exams in December, so that might be something to think about.
For DePaul, their likely starting line-up of freshmen Jabari Currie (7.5 PPG, 2.4 assists), Mejia, Karron Clarke (9 PPG 5 rpg), freshmen Wilson Chanler (9 PPG, 7.4 rpg) and Marlon Brumfield will be matched up against Ronald Ramon, Carl Krauser, John DeGroat, Levon Kendall and Gray. Draelon Burns provides an offensive spark off the bench for DePaul and the Panthers will rotate in five players off the bench, including freshmen Sam Young, Levance Fields and Tyrell Biggs along with guards Antonio Graves and Keith Benjamin. DePaul would love to have the services of Green for this game, but they will also use Marcus Heard and Lorenzo Thompson along with point guard Cliff Clinkscales.
Jamie Dixon will hope his Panthers have not spent the last eight days reading their press clippings as one of the three remaining unbeaten teams in the country and resist to urge to look ahead to Sunday's showdown with nationally ranked Louisville. The Panthers opened up as 12-pt favorites and the Pomeroy Computer predicts them to be a 13-pt winner tonight. They are a team that plays very well together in their roles and their team defense seems to be on par with the excellent Pitt teams of the past few years, even without a top individual defender.
DePaul is going to have to make shots tonight. It is a pretty safe bet to assume they will find it tough on the boards against Pittsburgh, but making shots, especially from beyond the arc, will keep you in the game against Pitt in the style they play. Karron Clarke and Wilson Chandler also need to have good offensive outings to keep the pressure on the Panthers. Being one of just three undefeated teams in the country does carry some added pressure, so, if they can keep this game close into the stretch drive, with a tough, physical match-up in Sammy Mejia for the Pitt guards, anything can happen.
The Peterson Events Center is a tough place for opponents to play as the Panthers have lost just 4 games there in the history of the building. They seem to play with much more confidence in their offensive game at home and the added offense should make the difference in this one. I think Depaul plays well and makes a few runs at the Panthers, but overall, Pitt is too deep and strong on the boards and defensively for the Blue Demons to pick up a road win.
NBE Blogger Prediction:
Pitt 71 DePaul 62
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