Thursday, February 09, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: West Virginia @ Pittsburgh

February 9, 2006

The West Virginia Mountaineers travel to arch rival Pittsburgh tonight and will put their 8-0 conference record on the line against the Panthers. West Virginia has the only unblemished conference recrod, in large part due to their ability to win close games, winning four conference tilts by five points or less.

Pittsburgh concludes their toughest stretch of the scheudule tonight against the top-10 Mountaineers. Pitt lost on the road to Connecticut and Georgetown last week as both games came down to the wire, but the Panthers could not make the vital plays down the stretch to get the tough road win. Pitt will look to avoid a 3-game losing streak.

Here are the pregame stories and previews found around the internet:

WVU's Motto: Bombs Away! (Beaver County Times)
National Spotlight Enhances Rivalry (Tribune-Review)
Pitt Mission: Don't Get 'Pittsnogled' (Tribune Review)
Pitt Notebook (Tribune-Review)
WVU Opens Brutal Stretch at Pitt (Charleston Gazette)
Vitale Will Do Color for Pitt/WVU (Post-Gazette)
WVU Stepped Up, Out to Down Pitt Last Year (Post-Gazette)
Panthers Facing a Difficult Schedule (Tribune-Democrat)
#9 WVU Seeks Third Straight Win over Pitt (Register-Herald)
Q&A With Mike Gansey (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

To read our preview and see our game prediction, click read more below and don't forget to leave your prediction in the comments section!


This will be the 169th meeting between the two "Backyard" Rivals and for the first time, both teams find themselves ranked. ESPN's Rivalry Week would not be complete without a rendition of the "Backyard Brawl", whether it was played outdoors on the football field or inside on the hardwood. ESPN will be there tonight for the 9 PM tip-off, complete with Dick Vitale paying a visit to the Oakland Zoo, which should be in rare form for their rivals from West Virginia.

Pitt enters the game as a 5-pt favorite at home. Last year, WVU rallied from a 15-pt defecit in the 2nd half in both games to sweep the Panthers, 83-78 in OT at West Virginia and 70-66 at Pittsburgh. Kevin Pittsnogle scored 49 pts in the two contests and the Mountaineers hit 24 shot from beyond the arc in the contests. Both games were tightly contestes, but Pittsnogle's shooting made the difference.

Numbers-wise, these two teams are rather similar. Both score about 74 PPG and shoot 45% from the floor, but how they get there is quite different. Pittsburgh outrebounds their opponents rather significantly and gets to the free throw line alot more while the Mountaineers shoot a ton of threes and limit their turnovers to less than an average of 9 per game, which is quite an amazing stat. They have a TEAM assist to turnover ratio of better than 2:1. WVU commits and absurdly low amount of fouls and will not look to get into a physical match with Pitt. WVU prefers to spread out the floor and hit open threes. With a seven man rotation that features five seniors, which all of them can shoot, WVU will not beat themselves and does provide a match-up that Pittsburgh sometimes struggles with, especially if they get into a habit of trying to answer with three point shots themselves. Pittsburgh will use a 10-man rotation with 5 of them being freshmen and sophomores and only have two seniors. These teams are very different.

With seniors that can shoot the ball as well as West Virginia, you have to beleive they have a chance to beat anyone, anywhere. Relying on the 3-ball has its downfalls, because when it is not falling, they can look ugly. So far, they have gotten away with it in the games things weren't falling in the conference. However, seeing that they can lose to Marshall in Charleston, but beat Villanova in the Pavilion shows how high or low they can go.

The Mountaineers seem to have been flirting with defeat a little more lately. Pittsburgh, at home, knows how big this game is and I expect them to be really charged up and ready to go, especially defensively and on the boards. Aaron Gray will cause Pittsnogle to work a little extra harder on the defensive end and on the boards and could cause him to wear down. Of course, Gray having to shadow Pittsnogle on the perimeter is an interesting dynamic in itself as that takes Pitt's best rebounder away from the hoop and puts him in unfamiliar territory defensively. If Pitt can get 30 minutes, or in the neighborhood of, from Gray, that means they should have their game go they way they want it. If they have to adapt and go smaller to counter, I think that it will pull them out of their comfort zone and WVU will slowly carve them up.

Tonight, I think it is Pitt that gets the game to go their way. I think WVU is draggin just a bit and they are due to see one of these close games not go their way, and Pittsburgh is.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 71 West Virginia 67


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