Saturday, March 11, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Syracuse vs Pittsburgh

March 11, 2006

I do not think anyone saw this final coming when the ball tipped off at noon on Wednesday. Syracuse entered the Big East Tournament clinging to their hopes of a bid to the NCAA Tournament coming off three consecutive losses, by a combined total of 64 points! Pittsburgh entered the tournament losing three of their last four, including a home loss to Seton Hall in their last game. Now, later tonight, they will tip off under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden for the coveted Big East Tournament title.

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!


It seems as though Syracuse has been read their last rites three times already this week, but Gerry McNamara just continues to add to his leged around the Salt City and the Syracuse program. McNamara beat Cincinnati on Wednesday with his running 3-pter with 0:00:5 on the clock and then drilled one from NBA range to force overtime in the waning seconds in their upset of #1 Connecticut. Last night, it was more McNamara magic as Syracuse rallied from a 15-pt halftime defecit behind his five 2nd half 3-pters, including one in the last minute to cut Georgetown's lead to 1, 57-56. After a Demetris Nichols steal, McNamara then added his biggest assist (27 in three games) with a beautiful left-handed bounce pass to freshmen Eric Devendorf that beat Roy Hibbert and Devendorf provided the Orange with the winning bucket in their 58-57 win over the Hoyas.

In Pittsburgh's first game, the Panthers rolled out to a 33-5 lead over Louisville and still had a 43-16 lead with 17 minutes left before the Panthers took a nap and had to hold on for a 61-56 win. On Thursday, it looked bleak for Pitt as they fell behind early by 12 points against West Virginia, playing without starting forward Levon Kendall. The Panthers closed to within 7 at the half before mowing past WVU in the last 10 minutes for a 68-57 win. After a slow start last night, Pitt closed the 1st half on a 30-12 run to take a 32-21 lead at the half over Villanova and cruised for much of the 2nd half for the 68-54 win.

Pitt is doing it with defense, allowing just 55.7 PPG in their three tournament games. Plus, they have different people stepping up all over the court. As usual, they will pound the boards as they dominated Louisville, West Virginia and Villanova on the boards and they will play nine or 10 players in a regular rotation. Kendall's back is a concern and John DeGroat has a nagging groin injury, but otherwise, Pittsburgh is healthy. The quick turnaround in games does seem to be taking a toll on Aaron Gray, Pitt's 7'0 250 lb C, however, as he has struggled finishing around the basket.

Gerry McNamara has been bothered by a nagging groin injury as well, but Terrence Roberts should be well rested as he spent much of the Georgetown game seated right next to Jim Boeheim. The biggest lift the Orange has gotten, other than the obvious from McNamara, has been Darryl Watkins who has played his best on both ends in the tournament. Georgetown did have very good success getting inside the SU zone with some excellent interior passing, but they did not finish their shots and struggled from the line. Pittsburgh has always been a team that has cracked the Syracuse zone very well as Pitt has won seven of the last nine meetings between the two teams.

Earlier this season, Pittsburgh beat the Orange 80-67 in Pittsburgh. Carl Krauser led the Panthers with 32 pts. The length and athleticism of Watkins and Roberts will make things tough on Gray inside, in their first meeting, the Pitt center shot just 1-10. Most teams believe speeding up Pittsburgh is the way to go, but if Syracuse can lull Pittsburgh into a slower pace against their zone and get them to settle for passing around the perimeter and attempting outside shots, they have a great opportunity at keeping the score in the 50's until the last minute and then hope for some more McNamara magic.

No matter who wins, history will be made as no team has ever won four games in the Big East Tournament. Sometimes, it just looks like a magical run, and it certainly has that feel for the Orange who will also enjoy a healthy edge in fan support. This just looks to be the week for Syracuse, they could turn around and lose next Thursday or Friday again, like last year, but this certainly looks like their week. Pittsburgh will be game and tough...but, another night of McNamara magic edges the Panthers.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Syracuse 64 Pittsburgh 63

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Friday, March 10, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Pittsburgh vs Villanova

March 10, 2006

It was a shame that the two Pennsylvania schools in the Big East were not scheduled to play this year in the regular season. However, Pittsburgh and Villanova took care of that in the Big East Tournament and will meet tonight in the second game of the doubleheader at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

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!


Pittsburgh advanced to the semifinals by beating West Virginia last night in the quarterfinals and Louisville in the first round. Pitt has looked VERY good at times and not-so-good at times, in the same game, and for long stretches. Last night, playing without starting forward Levon Kendall who was out with back spasms, the Panthers rallied from an early 12-pt defecit to come back and beat the Mountaineers 68-57. Aaron Gray, started off the game shooting just 1-8 from the floor in the first 10 minutes, but held it together and finished with 19 pts and 15 rebounds. Freshmen Sam Young added 14 pts and 11 rebounds while fellow freshmen Levance Fields added 10 pts and sophomore Ron Ramon added all 10 of his pts in the 2nd-half. Even better news for the Panthers, they will all be back next season!

Villanova earned a 1st round bye so last night was their first action in Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats were in quite a tussle, leading Rutgers by just a point at the half. Quincy Douby was a one-man gang for the Scarlet Knights, scoring 24 pts himself in the first 20 minutes, but Villanova took control in the 2nd half, whipping Rutgers by 31 pts to finish off an 87-55 win. Allan Ray scored 19 of his team high 26 in the 2nd half.

The status of Kendall is unknown at this time, but it is probably a safe bet he will be held out of action. With Villanova's 4-guard line-up, it might be a good night to let him rest for next week and the NCAA Tournament. Pitt showed last night they are willing to go small and played 3-guard lineup with Carl Krauser, Ramon and Fields for most of the 2nd half with Antonio Graves rotating in. Pitt also went even smaller with Keith Benjamin subbing in for Young at a couple key portions of the game. Tonight, to give Aaron Gray a breather, you might see Pitt go small again, which would match up with the 'Nova 4-guards, and use Young in place of Gray and Tyrell Biggs as well. Gray was clearly tired late last night and chasing Kevin Pittsnogle on the perimeter definitely took its toll on the big guy. Tonight he will be anchored near the basket and Pitt will look to go to him often as he is clearly the position on the floor that Pitt will have their biggest advantage.

Villanova will be a difficult match-up for Pitt, however. Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye and Ray are all bigger and more athletic than the Pitt guards. They will pressure the ball and work to get into the lane for their own shots. Pitt does struggle at times in allowing dribble penetration, but plays excellent team defense, especially with their switching and defensive rotations. However, that can get you in trouble against Villanova as Foye and Lowry love to break you down off the dribble and spot up Ray and Mike Nardi from beyond the arc. The Pitt guards are going to have to rebound, especially against Foye. Pitt is vulnerable to the style of play that the Villanova guards excel at on both sides of the ball. Inside, the Wildcats are going to have to anchor down on Gray with Will Sheridan and he will be backed up by Jason Fraser. When the Wildcats need to go a little more traditional to give some of their guards a breather, freshmen Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham at the forwards. This is a line-up that Pittsburgh hopes to force Villanova to use more often to contend with Gray and Young.

Villanova is a 5-pt favorite in tonight's game, which seems just a touch low for me. After a pair of games back to back for Pitt and Villanova cruising last night, I am not sure how much the Panthers will have in the tank. The ball pressure and trapping that Villanva will apply will cut down on the ability of Pitt to get the ball inside. I really look forward to the match-up, and wish we got to see it earlier. Coming off their win over their rivals last night, it is a valid excuse for Pitt to be a little tired tonight. Villanova righfully has their sights set on a possible #1 seed overall in the NCAA Tournament.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Villanova 74 Pittsburgh 64

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Pittsburgh vs West Virginia

March 9, 2006

The two bitter rivals will meet for a third time this season. After splitting their first two games, with both teams winning on their home courts, the Panthers and Mountaineers will settle things under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

Here are the pregame stories and previews from the internet:

Seniors Lead WVU into Quarterfinals (Beaver County Times)
WVU Enters Tournament After Loss - Again (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
WVU Relies Heavily on Three-Pointers
WVU Sits Back, Gets Pittsburgh Tonight (Charleston Gazette)
WVU Men Prep for Another Big East Run (Register-Herald)
Its More Than a New York Minute (Daily Mail)
Pitt Players Back in the City (Beaver County 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!


West Virginia got to kick back and relax last night and watch some Big East basketball as they were one of four teams with a bye in the Big East Conference Toournament. With their lack of depth, a night off was probably a welcomed relief. For the first 25 minutes or so of last night's Louisville/Pittsburgh 1st round match-up, it looked as though the Panthers had the night off, running out to leads of 16-0, 35-7 and 43-16 with about 16 minutes left. Then, in fact, it did seem like they took the rest of th egame off as Louisville whittled down the lead to 3 at 59-56, but Pittsburgh prevailed for the victory, having to use a little more effort than you would have thought when they got out to their big lead.

Pittsburgh is a team that can play 10 or 11 guys, so they are deep, last night they used 8 players at least 18 minutes, so fatigue probably will not be too much of a factor tonight. The Mountaineers will likely be anxious to get this one under way. They are coming off a season-ending loss and had to wait all day yesterday and again, all day today, until the approximate 9:30 tip-off. Pittsburgh already has a game under their belts in the Garden and that can be a key, especially for two teams that are pretty evenly matched.

Pitt will look to get Aaron Gray the ball and have him work against Kevin Pittsnogle in the post. Gray struggled a little bit last night against some of the length and athleticism of UL's Terrance Farley, and will have to contend tonight with the West Virginia double-team. How he handles his passing and patience out of the double-team will go a long way in determining how effective the Pittsburgh offense is run. West Virginia will look to use Pittsnogle on the perimeter and pull Gray away from the basket to the 3-pt line, opening up the middle and helping ease Pitt's rebounding advantage.

West Virginia runs a lot of cuts and screens, but Pitt is a difficult team to run those sets against. Mike Gansey had a tough pair of games against Pittsburgh getting free for shots, the Panthers will continue to try and bump him on every cut and ride him through each screen. Finding an alternative source of scoring is a key for the Mountaineers, whether it is Joe Herber, Patrick Beilein or Frank Young, somebody will need to step up for WVU. In their home win against Pitt just over a week ago, Joe Herber started off hot and the Mountaineers rode the emotional wave of Senior Night for an early 19-6 lead. Pittsburgh battled back, but could not overcome the early defecit, largely due to Cark Krauser's 3-16 night shooting the ball.

I do not think West Virginia will rush out tonight to an early lead or that Krauser will have such a poor game, however, the double team of Gray and Pitt's problems protecting the ball will continue to keep this game close. Unlike the previous two match-ups, I look for Mike Gansey, who had a red-hot 2nd half against Cincinnati over the weekend, to break out against Pittsburgh and the Mountaineers pull one out down the stretch, led, as usual, by their five seniors, who will be a little more rested tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

West Virginia 70 Pittsburgh 67

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Louisville vs Pittsburgh

March 8, 2006

The first night of the 2006 Big East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament closes with Louisville taking on Pittsburgh. When these two teams first met in January, the Cardinals were ranked 10th in the country and Pitt was 12th. The Panthers edged Louisville 61-57 in Freedom Hall. Now they meet again, Pitt is still ranked among the top 15, but Louisville found it tough going in their initial campaign in the Big East, finishing 6-10 in the conference, but that can be put all behind them with a run this week in New York City.

Here are the pregame stories and previews from the internet:

Is It Tello Time? (Lousville Courier-Journal)
Louisville Hoping for a Run (Lexington Herald-Leader)
If Three Six Mafia Can Stun World, So Can Cardinals (Courier-Journal)
Louisville First Up for Pitt (Herald Standard)
Krauser's Shooting Slump a Concern (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Louisville Presents Different Look for Pitt (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Gray Gives Pitt Reason for Optimism (Tribune Democrat)
Pitt Notebook (Tribune-Review)

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!


Pittsburgh comes into the Big East Tournament sliding a bit, losing three of their last four games, but eyebrows really were not raised until Friday's 65-61 home loss to Seton Hall. Louisville ends up in the Big East Tournament after losing two of their last three, beating Marquette on Senior Night last Wednesday to clinch a berth in the Garden Party, but they also feel pretty good about themselves after a pair of 4-pt road losses to West Virginia and Connecticut.

There is no doubt that this will be a close game. Pittsburgh is a team that does not get blown out, but they rarely blow anyone out themselves. Lately, however, they have not matched the intensity or emotional effort of their opponents, who seemed to be playing for more than Pitt. However, in their last two games, Carl Krauser has shot just 5-26 from the floor. In an earlier loss at Madison Square Garden to St. John's, Krauser shot just 5-17 (see a pattern here?) from the field. Pittsburgh will need to up their level of intensity on the defensive end and get a better offensive performance tonight if they are going to be able to survive the 1st round of the Big East Tournament.

When Pitt and Louisville met the first time, the Cardinals had a very limited Taquan Dean, who limped through 12 minutes of action. In that game, freshmen Terrence Williams had a career afternoon, scoring 25 pts, but the rest of the Cards managed to shoot just 10-34, including David Padgett and Juan Palacios' miserable 7-24. This time, Louisville will be without Padgett, whose season is finished because of knee surgery, but Dean is healthy and Palacios seems to be matching his enormous potential with some concrete results as he is coming off a 29-pt performance against Connecticut on Saturday.

Although just 6-10 in the conference, Louisville still believes that with two or three wins they will get consideration on selection Sunday, and they very well could. However, here is a team that has yet to win more than one game in a row in the Big East. Since February 4th's win over Notre Dame, the Cards have alternated wins and losses in each game, losing on the road to Cincinnati, Syracuse, West Virginia and Connecticut while winning at home against South Florida, DePaul and Marquette, many of the games were right down to the wire.

Without Padgett, the Cardinals will rotate Terrance Farley and Brian Johnson in the post against Pitt's Aaron Gray. In conference play, Gray is averaging a team-high 15.6 PPG and a league-leading 10.7 rebounds while shooting 57% from the floor, numbers good enough to be crowned the league's Most Improved Player and a memeber of the 1st team All-Big East. Gray has struggled from the foul line late in tight games and has found himself in foul trouble. The Louisville duo will probably not challenge Gray offensively, so he could avoid foul trouble, but they will concentrate on making him work for his points.

The other key match-up is Brandon Jenkins, Louisville's perimeter defensive-stopper, on Carl Krauser. Despite a shooting slump, Krauser is still Pitt's offensive catalyst and the player the opposition will look to take away from Pitt on the perimeter. Jenkins should be up to the task, forcing Pittsburgh to find other ways to beat them. Louisville will use a lot of ball pressure to try and disrupt Pitt into a tempo they do not like to play in and create turnovers where the Cards will look to run and finish on the break with a Williams' dunk, Dean three or drive to the hoop from Palacios. Pitt will try to use their size advantage and slow the game down and wear the Cards out with their superior depth.

Pitt has not fared well of late against teams that had more to play for. Whether it has been on the road or at home against Seton Hall, who was playing for their NCAA Tournament lives, the Panthers have seemed to be just a step behind their opposition. Sure, the stakes have also been high for Pitt, playing for a top NCAA seed and a Big East Tournament bye, but the other teams seems to be taking their effort up just one more notch. It is not like Pitt is not playing with effort of passion, it just has not met the level of their opponent.

Tonight, Louisville is playing for their season, their stakes are high. Earlier in the season, they tried to run their offense through David Padgett and it did not work against a team as physical as Pitt. Tonight, they will look to attack from the perimeter and pressure the ball with a press and trap against Pitt. I look for their intensity to be at a very high level, and, this will get them a tight win down the stretch as Pitt's streak of close losses continues.

Pitt is 4.5-pt favorites, but it will be a struggle tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Louisville 67 Pittsburgh 65

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Friday, March 03, 2006

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Seton Hall @ Pittsburgh

March 3, 2006

Pittsburgh looks to wrap-up an undefeated home season when they host the Seton Hall Pirates on senior night at the Peterson Events Center on the University of Pittsburgh campus. The Panthers are 7-0 at home in the Big East and 16-0 on the season.

Seton Hall got a MUCH needed win Tuesday night when they rallied at home to beat Cincinnati. Seton Hall is 4-6 on the road this year and have lost their last two away from Continental Airlines Arena, at St. John's and at DePaul.

Here are the pregame articles linked from around the internet:

Seton Hall-Pittsburgh Scouting Report (Courier News)
Tourney Fortune Hanging Over Hall (Star-Ledger)
Krauser: From Bronx Zoo to Oakland Zoo (Beaver County Times)
End of Era for Krauser (Tribune-Review)
Krauser's Final Home Game Tonight Against SHU (Post-Gazette)
Pitt Notebook (Tribune-Review)

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 last time Seton Hall came to Pittsburgh on a night when they were celebrating senior night with an emotional sendoff for one of their beloved point guards, the Pirates limped home after a 31-pt thrashing as the Pitt faithful celebrated the career of Brandin Knight. Tonight, the Oakland Zoo will be looking to send off Carl Krauser in a similar fashion.

The Panthers enter the game as 12-pt favorites against Seton Hall. The Pirates have been quite a story themselves this year. Picked by many, including me, to be dead in the water in the new Big East and likely to be just playing out the string by this time with no hope of a Big East Tournament bid, Louis Orr and his team have done a remarkable job in putting themselves in position for an NCAA Tournament bid. Wins over Cincinnati and West Virginia recently at home and road wins against North Carolina St and Syracuse, with at least a .500 record in the Big East, should be enough to get the Pirates a bid next Sunday.

Seton Hall is a team that plays hard for 40 minutes, a tribute to the coach they are playing for. Despite having some of the lowest lows, the Pirates always seem to bounce back with effort and defense, and those factors can be a giant equalizer. They are led by seniors Donald Copeland, who averages almost 16 PPG, and Kelly Whitney, who averages 15 PPG and 8 rebounds. Jamar Nutter is their hot-shooting 2-guard that also adds over 12 PPG and when he starts dialing in from beyond the arc, the Pirate offense becomes more balanced, creating space for Whitney inside and Copeland outside. Brian Laing and Grant Billmeier round out the starting line-up and Paul Gause, instant offense off the bench, and Stan Gaines, their top defender, provide solid depth. David Palmer and Marcus Cousin round out the rotation, providing some frontcourt help, which against Pittsburgh, is usually needed.

The Panthers are led by Krauser and junior 7'0 C Aaron Gray. On the season, Gray is averaging 14 PPG and 10 rebounds, and those numbers are higher in the Big East. Gray is a definite load inside that will challenge Billmeier and Cousin on every trip. With Billmeier and Cousin, Gray probably will not find himself challenged often on defense. Seton Hall could opt to go small with Whitney, a smaller and quicker post player, as their 5, but the Pitt size, with 6'9 Levon Kendall, would be at a great advantage. Kendall will get the assignment with Whitney. Kendall is one of the better post-defenders in the conference and is widely underappreciated outside of the Pitt staff. You know he is doing something right if he keeps playing ahead of athletic freshmen Sam Young. Another freshmen Tyrell Biggs adds depth. Krauser starts in the backcourt and Ronald Ramon and Levance Fields split time at the point. Antonio Graves, Keith Benjamin and John DeGroat, the other senior, also share time on the wing, giving Pitt a true 10-man rotation. They do not go to 10 out of necessity, they go to 10 because they can.

Seton Hall is still trying to insure they get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. A win over Pittsburgh would guarantee them a spot, so they have a lot riding on this game. With their win over Cincinnati, I do not think this is a must-win game, but it would definitely be huge. Pittsburgh still hopes for a bye in the Big East tournament, although it would take Georgetown losing to South Florida over the weekend, which is highly unlikely, but, Pitt knows they can cap off a very good season and great career of Carl Krauser with a strong performance tonight.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 76 Seton hall 63

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