Wednesday, January 10, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Pittsburgh @ DePaul

January 10, 2006

The consistently inconsistent DePaul Blue Demons return home to Allstate Arena tonight to host 7th-ranked Pittsburgh in a game televised by ESPN2. If you have not gotten a chance to see the Panthers this year, no need to worry, tonight they play on 'the deuce', Saturday night they host ESPN College Gameday at the Peterson Events Center when they meet Georgetown, next Tuesday they are on ESPN2 as part of College Spirit Week while hosting Connecticut and then next Sunday, CBS will televise their game nationally with Marquette, again at home. Prior to that stretch of high-profile home games, there is the matter of the DePaul Blue Demons on the road. It is a tough task to win in Chicago, just ask Kansas, as the Blue Demons are 7-0 at home this year.

Here are the pregame stories and rpeviews from around the internet:

Pitt Getting Back to Defense (Beaver County Times)
With Gray Inside and Hot 3-pt Shooters Outside, Pitt Hard to Stop (Post-Gazette)
Pitt Guards Key to Success (Tribune-Democrat)
DePaul Posses Lots of Confidence (Chicago Tribune)
Gray, Pitt, Threaten DePaul's Home Run (Chicago Sun-Times)
Depaul Star Mejia Almost Came to Pitt (Tribune-Review)

Click below for our brief preview and prediction on this game and don't forget to leave your prediction in the comments section.


Pitt, projected as a 1-pt winner by Pomeroy, enters tonight's game currently as a 2-pt favorite with oddmakers. For those of you who love conspiracy theories...here is one for you:

As mentioned in our opener, ESPN and the Big East will be showcasing the Panthers quite a bit in the next couple weeks. ESPN is spending a lot of $$ on the Big East going forward, and with the conference getting the perception that it is down this year, the need for one team to step up is very evident. Pitt is a team that plays very unselfish and consistent, that means they will be in every game. They have a style of play that is helped very greatly by an officiating crew that calls the game loosely, so...don't be surprised to see a crew assigned to the game that lets the game flow and the players play...

Ha! Seriously, though...players win the game. Players need to make shots and step up and make stops on the defensive end. That will win the game. This has th emakings of a very interesting college basketball game. DePaul, for all their ups and downs the last season and a half continues to remain a very confident team in their own abilities. Sammy Mejia and Wilson Chandler is probably the best 1-2 punch in terms of talent in the Big East. They are the two leading scorers and rebounders on DePaul and both pose tough match-ups for Pittsburgh with their length and athletic ability. Mejia spends a lot of time with the ball in his hands, so that will make him tougher to guard for Pitt's Antonio Graves than Demetris Nichols of Syracuse, who was also dependent on his guards getting him the ball. That is good news for Mejia, because the Depaul point guard position has been a spot of inconsistency between Jabari Currie, Cliff Clinkscales and Will Walker. In the two Big East games, the trio has combined for just three made field goals (all in the loss at St. John's) and Clinkscales leads the team, along with Mejia, with 2.8 assists a game, despite playing under 13 minutes a game.

Like Pittsburgh, DePaul goes 9-deep in their rotation and they could even dig deeper with Lorenzo Thompson and Keith Butler to add some more size to lean on Aaron Gray inside. Gray has not been scoring much of late as defenses key on him, but the rest of the team has not slowed down, scoring 76 PPG in their last four and outscoring opponents by more than 21 points a game. Surprisingly to many, the Panthers are the Big East's leading 3-pt % shooting team in the conference. Ronald Ramon, Antonio Graves and Levance Fields have been making teams pay for sagging in on Gray. Fields has really stepped up his game over the last month, including exploding for a 24-pt game at Syracuse.

This is a tough game to call. DePaul will be fired up, but you never really know what your going to get when the Blue Demon's hit the floor, although they have been very solid at home this season with nice wins over Kansas, Wake Forest and California. Pitt has been on the road, winning at Auburn, Buffalo and Syracuse, while dropping a game at Wisconsin. Pitt seems to be improving on the defensive end and on the boards and picking up on more of the little things that have helped improve their play on the road in each new scenario.

It should be a tough game, unless one team is really hot or one is really cold, but I expect both teams to come out and play well, but Pitt's well will be just a little better because of Gray inside opening more opportunities for the rest of the team.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 71 DePaul 67


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