Monday, February 27, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Pittsburgh @ West Virginia

February 27, 2006

The first time West Virginia and Pittsburgh met this year it was the first time both teams were ranked when meeting during the long rivalry. Tonight, both teams are ranked once again as the 'Backyard Brawl' has another edition on the hardwood.

Here are the pregame stories and articles on tonight's game:

WVU Seniors in a Class by Themselves (Charleston Gazette)
Mountaineers Class of '06 Going Out in Style (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Pitt Needs Win Tonight to Gain Top-Four Standing (Post-Gazette)
Bye Bidders Pitt, WVU Set for Rematch (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Gansey Likes WVU Coliseum's Edge (Tribune-Review)
Pittsnogle Aims to Reverse Fortune (Tribune-Review)
WVU, Pitt Clash for 3rd Spot in LEague (Register-Herald)

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!


Eighteen days ago, Pittsburgh and West Virginia met in Pittsburgh, with the Mountaineers 8-0 in the Big East and riding high. The Panthers were coming off two tough road losses and were looking to avoid a three-game losing streak and end their rivals unbeaten run in the conference. Pitt did just that with a 57-53 win, holding WVU's leading scorer Kevin Pittsnogle scoreless on 0-12 shooting.

Since their loss at Pitt, West Virginia has faced a brutal schedule which has had them play six games in 16 days and the Mountaineers have dropped four of them. This has made the rematch with Pitt all the much bigger as the winner will likely claim the three seed in the Big East Tournament. Pittsburgh must win tonight in Morgantown and on Friday against Seton Hall to earn a bye and the third seed. A loss would put Pittsburgh into the tie-breaker scenarios, likely with Georgetown and Marquette and possibly West Virginia, and a 6th seed as the tie-breakers go against Pitt. West Virginia still has to get past Cincinnati, on the road, this weekend. However, an 11-5 conference record is good enough for the Mountaineers for a bye with all the tie-breakers mostly in their favor.

Tonight, Big Monday, senior night for a special Mountaineer class and their biggest rival is in town, so the Morghantown Crazies will be ready to go and Pittsburgh will be walking into a tremendous atmosphere. It is almost a certain that Pittsnogle will hit some shots tonight, but Pitt will challenge him on both ends of the floor with big Aaron Gray. In the first match-up, the Panthers also did a great job in limiting Mike Gansey and taking away much on the perimeter, they will need another big defensive effort and take care of the basketball better tonight.

This should be a classic Big East battle between two long time rivals. The Mountaineers are around 4-pt favorites. Expect another one coming down to the wire. I just do not see the WVU seniors going out with another loss.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

West Virginia 65 Pittsburgh 63

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Friday, February 24, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Providence @ Pittsburgh

February 25, 2006

It has only been 10 days since Pittsburgh and Providence met in the Dunkin Donuts center in Providence, RI, the scene of Pitt's 85-77 win over the Friars. The rematch in their home and home series takes place Saturday night in the Peterson Events Center on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.

Right now, Providence is in the Big East Tournament, however, finishing with perhaps the toughest three games of all the challengers, along with Louisville, there is no guarantee they will stay among the top 12 teams. Winning this one might be too much to ask of the young Friars on the road.

Pittsburgh will be celebrating their 100th season of Men's Basketball on this night and will expect a very enthused crowd for the festivities. Pittsburgh, who loses out in nearly every tie-breaker scenario in the event of a tie for the final first round byes, knows they need to win out for one of the four Big East Tournament byes and is still playing for a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament.

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!


In their first meeting, Pittsburgh road Aaron Gray in the 2nd half to come from an early defecit and defeat Providence. Donnie McGrath had a career high 28 pts in the contest, but nobody else on the Friars lended any help to the senior and Pittsburgh got four players in double figures and points from 10 players.

The Friars will need Randall Hanke to play more like he did against Solomon Jones this past week and less like he did the first time against Pittsburgh. However, the size and girth of Aaron Gray is a very tough match-up for both Hanke and Herbert Hill. In the first meeting they combined to go 5-16 from the floor for 14 pts and 7 rebounds in 42 minutes while Gray went 9-9 from the floor and hit for 22 pts and 9 rebounds in 30 minutes. Pitt made some halftime adjustments in attacking the PC zone to get Gray the ball and he led the Panthers to the victory, we will see if PC alters any of their strategy this time around.

Providence only has eight scholarship players and Pitt's bench that goes 10 deep by the 8 minute mark of every game was huge in the first meeting, scoring 29 pts. They will use that depth again and their overall talent to grind away another win, pulling away over the course of 40 minutes and add their own celebration to the evening's festivities.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 78 Providence 65

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BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Providence @ Pittsburgh

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Friday, February 17, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Pittsburgh @ Marquette

February 18, 2006

At the beginning of the season, not too much was thought of when the schedule was released and Pittsburgh and Marquette were selected as one of the home and home games in the conference. Well, here we are in the 2nd half of February, starting the stretch run of the Big East conference schedule, and both teams have put themselves in position to be a marquee game in the conference.

Saturday night, their second meeting of the season, takes place in primetime at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the home of the Golden Eagles. Marquette will be bouncing back after a short turnaround from Thursday night's primetime ESPN win over Georgetown, in a very tough and intense game, and look to earn another impressive win.

Pittsburgh is coming off a Wednesday night win over Providence in which they erased a 4-pt halftime defecit to claim a road win and move into sole possession of the coveted 4th bye in the conference tournament, a position that Marquette, among others, will be gunning for.

For our the rest of our preview and prediction on the game, click below!


With their win over Georgetown, the Golden Eagles, at least temporarily, put the breaks on a little losing skid that saw them drop three of their last four. The losing trend began with a 77-71 loss at Pittsburgh, in a game that might have gotten a little chippy when Dominic James aggravated a shoulder injury and got a little extra shove in the back by Pitt's Antonio Graves, an incident that the Marquette fans have definitely not forgotton. Marquette was leading at the time and Pittsburgh took advantage of his absence to seize control of the game with Marquette struggling to find a replacement ball-handler. Dan Fitzgerald, running the back-up point position, turned it over five times in his 25 minutes. Pitt also beat Marquette up on the boards with a 45-30 rebounding advantage as Aaron Gray, battling the flu, grabbed a career high 20 rebounds.

Since that game, James has looked healthy again and Steve Novak, who was battling a lingering ankle injury, seems to be back on two feet and showed that touch Thursday hitting 5-8 from beyond the arc against Georgetown. In the first meeting with Pitt, Novak scored just 8 pts against the Panthers. It is likely that Marquette will be without Mike Kinsella and Jamil Lott this time. In the first meeting, they were rotated in to try and put a body on Gray, playing a combined 14 minutes and scoring 7 pts. So, this time around, Ryan Amoroso, Ousmane Barro and Chris Grimm will get the playing time against the big 7-footer. Amoroso had a big game with 14 pts in 18 minutes in their first meeting, but has been a non-factor since, including not getting off the bench in a couple games. However, he could be a factor Saturday in pulling Gray away from the basket on offense as they will have to respect his ability to hit a 3-pt shot. Marquette also has the services of Wesley Mathews in this game, he was still out with a foot injury in their first one.

For Pittsburgh, their key all season has been their depth. It is not uncommon for the Panthers to have their entire starting five on the bench by the eight minute mark of each half. They are also a rare combination of youth and experience, where one could argue if they are a young team or a veteran team and both would be correct. It is also more than normal to find Pitt down early in games, but as they work through their rotations, find the right combination and wear down an opponent, they find themselves right back in the game. Their rebounding power, depth and stubborness to play their game keeps them in every contest. When people talk about the best teams in the country, Pittsburgh is often overlooked, but this is a team that is 12 pts shy of being undefeated, but more often than not, is underappreciated.

This is a big game for each team and another tough one to predict. Each team has areas that they like to beleive they can exploit in the other that will make them successful. I see another game coming down to the wire, much like the Marquette/Georgetown game from Thursday night. This should put Pitt in good position as Marquette could wear down, but the excited crowd should energize the Golden Eagles and some threes and changing defenses could force Pitt out of the rhythm on offense they usually establish.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Marquette 65 Pittsburgh 63

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Pittsburgh @ Providence

February 15, 2006

Pittsburgh takes to the road again this week after posting a couple home wins last week against West Virginia and Cincinnati. Their first stop this week is in Providence, RI were the Panthers will take on the Friars. Pitt is still very much in the mix for a bye in the conference tournament, sitting at 8-3 in the conference and tied with Georgetown, one game behind Connecticut and West Virginia.

Providence has won four of their last six games putting them on the correct side of the bubble for the Big East tournament. They finish the conference schedule by hosting Pittsburgh, South Florida and Notre Dame and have a return trip to Pittsburgh along with road contests with Cincinnati and Marquette. Finding enough wins to clinch the conference tournament bid is their biggest goal right now.

Here are the pregame stories and previews we have found on the internet this morning:

Friars Haven't Been the Same Since Mauling by Panthers (Providence Journal)
PC vs Pittsburgh Preview (Providence Journal)
Pitt Revisits Site of Crucial Blowout (Tribune Review)
Pitt/Providence Mark 40th Meeting (Tribune-Review)
New Shade of Gray is Key to Pitt Picture (Post-Gazette)
Friars Look to Avoid Pitt Fall (Woonsocket Call)
McGrath's More than a Shooter (Pawtucket Times)

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!


The Friars have done what they needed to do to get into contention for the Big East tournament and even a bid to the NIT. However, tonight, they take a large step-up in competition when the Pittsburgh Panthers come to down.

Providence owns four conference wins, two coming against DePaul and the others over St John's and Rutgers. They have definitely played better of late, but on the season, the only teams with winning records they have beaten are Northeastern, Yale, San Diego St (without their best player) and Rutgers. Now, they will look for their statement win against 9th ranked Pittsburgh.

The last two meetings between Pitt and PC have not gone the way of the Friars, at all. Pittsburgh beat Providence 88-61 in 2004, at Providence, and 86-66 last year in Pittsburgh. This is the first of two meetings between the clubs down the stretch.

Providence is not very deep, just eight scholarship players, and they do not rebound very well. They prefer to play an uptempo game, not the defensive, grind-it-out style of the Panthers, so, establishing one's tempo is a key part of this game.

For the most part, the Friars style plays right into the hands of the Panthers and Pitt has exposed that the last couple years. Pitt also has a few more athletes in their rotation this year compared to the past, so Pitt will also look to take advantage of fast-break opportunities and will surprise you with how well their front court players like Aaron Gray and Levon Kendall run the floor and wings like Sam Young and Keith Benjamin will also look to finish on the break.

Providence will definitely lay the effort on the line with freshmen Sharaud Curry, Geoff McDermott and Weyinmi Efejuku in the starting line-up and bruising Jonathan Kale off the bench. Senior Donnie McGrath has been around for a while and will look to find the range from 3-pt range, he will need to have a hot noght to overcome the Pitt advantages inside.

I do look for the Friars, who should be rested after a week off, to lay it on the line tonight and play with energy and passion. However, a deeper, bigger and more experienced Pitt team will look to pull away as the game goes on by whethering every run by playing defense and hitting the boards.

The Panthers are 5.5-pt road favorites tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 74 Providence 67

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh

February 12, 2006

Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon Big East contest. The Bearcats are coming off an important Rivalry Week win over Louisville, at home, and will look to pad their NCAA resume with a high quality road conference win.

Pittsburgh is coming off a big Rivalry Week home win themselves as they took care of West Virginia Thursday night. The Panthers are in the thick of the conference race for one of the four Big East tournament byes, so winning at home is a must.

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!


We all know it has not been easy for the Bearcats this season and with a shortage of numbers, playing the physical grinding style of Pittsburgh on the road will be a huge test for Cincinnati. To make things a little more difficult, the Bearcats are really banged up right now. James White and Eric Hicks are battling nagging ankle injuries and Hicks suffered a concussion in their win over Louisville. These two seniors are the heart and soul of the team, so, as they go, so goes the team. With Hicks, you know you will get 110% effort every minute he is on the floor. However, with little size help inside, the banging and bumping with big Aaron Gray is bound to wear on a player.

After losing five of six after Armien Kirkland went done with a season-ending knee injury, the Bearcats have responded by winning two of three. Both wins (USF and UL) have come at home. The road has not been kind to UC of late, lack of depth has really taken a toll, and they have dropped their last four conference road games, by nearly an average of 15 pts a game.

Pittsburgh remains one of the best home teams in the country, enjoying the Peterson Events Center home cooking to the tune of 14-0 on the season and 5-0 in the conference. They will look to continue their home dominance against the road weary Bearcats.

Pittsburgh will look for Carl Krauser to get his offense going again. Krauser has averaged just 9.7 PPG his last three contests, but is usually much better at home, where he is averaging 19.2 PPG in conference play. The Cincinnati guard tandem of Jihad Muhammad and Devan Downey are quick, but Krauser will have a size advantage over both. Even though Krauser has struggled of late, Ronald Ramon has provided a spark averaging 12 PPG in their last five games and is hitting over 55% from 3-pt range in that time. Pittsburgh is bigger at every spot on the floor, except at SF, where James White will prove to be a tough test, and is much deeper than Cincinnati with Sam Young, Levance Fields, Keith Benjamin, Antonio Graves and Tyrell Biggs all more than capable to contribute.

This is a game that Cincinnati needs more for the NCAA Tournament, but going on the road to get it will be extremely tough. Pittsburgh is not a team that will runaway and hide from you and the athletic ability and will of players like Eric Hicks should keep Cincinnati in the game for the most part, but I expect them to wear down over time.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 73 Cincinnati 65

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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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