Friday, January 12, 2007


January 13, 2007

The Peterson Events Center has turned into one of college basketball's best home court advantages in its short lifetime on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. This Saturday, the 'Pete' will be the epicenter of the college basketball universe as the ESPN College GameDay crew calls it home for the day in anticipation og Saturday night's match-up between the Georgetown Hoyas and Pittsburgh Panthers, the two teams picked 1-2 in all the preseason conference polls.

Both teams came into the season with highest of expectations and top 10 rankings. When the two teams tip-off on Saturday, only one will find themselves ranked and the other is still trying to find a consistent groove for the season.

Pittsburgh will put their undefeated conference record and #7 ranking on the line with the enthusiastic backing of the Oakland Zoo. Pitt, led by 7'0 preseason conference player of the year Aaron Gray will try to put some distance between themselves and the Hoyas, who are coming off a Big East loss to Villanova last Monday night. The Hoyas are led by a pair of preseason 1st team all-conference picks in Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, who will both be looking to bounce back from subpar games in their loss to the Wildcats.

Georgetown had trouble with Villanova's full court and 3/4-court traps and pressure. One thing they will be thankful for in this game is that Pittsburgh plays a straight-up man to man where they do not pick up defensively until half court. However, Jonathan Wallace will have to contend with Pitt's Levance Fields on the ball. Fields is quickly stepping up as one of the best point guards in the game and will try to take the Georgetown offense out of rhythm by pressuring the ball. Pittsburgh also will stick to their man to man defense as long as they possibly can, which is also a welcomed site for the Hoyas, but they are definitely going to need to step-up their game to make Pittsburgh pay for their decisions. With the loss of Marc Egerson, the Hoya bench has become very thin in the backcourt and reserves Tyler Crawford and Jeremiah Rivers did not handle their assignments against Villanova very well. Pitt is a deep team, so bench play on the Hoya end will come into play as well.

Last year, Georgetown earned a comeback home win over Pittsburgh when they went small and moved Jeff Green to the '5' spot and sat Roy Hibbert, forcing Aaron Gray to defend Green well away from the basket where Green showed his range and hit a couple 3-pt shots and drove past the slower Gray for easy baskets. If they move to that tactic this season, Pittsburgh might be wise to play some zone. Also, the Hoyas used a match-up zone defense to collapse on Gray at the other end to make up for their smaller line-up, those are strategies they are likely to go to again.

However, when Pittsburgh is home, they tend to be a different team. They shoot the ball extremely well on thier homecourt and putting all your attention towards Gray opens up the perimeter for Levance Fields, Antonio Graves, Ronald Ramon and Mike Cook. The Panthers faces a similar attack when Florida State came to Pittsburgh in November and the Panthers blitzed the Seminoles with Gray being little of a factor. This Pitt team has more players that can beat you on the perimeter than in the past and Fields knows how to distribute the ball and everyone seems more on the same page offensively than in the past.

These are the two teams expected to be at the top in the conference. With the fired up crowd for a 9 PM tip-off, I see Pitt's homecourt advantage being too much in this one for the Hoyas to overcome and Pitt will hit some big shots from the perimeter. Georgetown will compete and the game will be slowed down at times, taking some of the crowd out, but some improved outside scoring carries Pitt to a big win.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 70 Georgetown 61


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