Saturday, January 17, 2009


January 17, 2009

The Big East has marquee match-ups nearly every single night it puts action on the court. Saturday is no exception as the 6 PM match-up in Freedom Hall between Pittsburgh and Louisville will certainly draw a lot of attention.

The Panthers once again will lace up their sneakers as the #1 ranked team in the country and be the most hunted team in the land. With that large target on their back, some believe Pitt has struggled a little with St. John’s and South Florida, but winning by an average of 18 points a game in two conference contests is a way more teams would like to ‘struggle.’

Panthers Like the View from the Top (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Louisville/Pitt Preview (Card Chronicle)
Pitino: Pitt Game Wont Be Pretty (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Cards Prepare to Host Top-Ranked Pitt (News Enterprise)
Ranked Teams Lined Up to Play Pitt (Post-Gazette)

Louisville seems to be finding their stride following the thrilling last-second win over rival Kentucky before entering conference play. The Cards have opened conference play with three consecutive wins, including a 61-60 escape against Villanova and the overtime win over Notre Dame in their last game.

Even with the 3-0 Big East start, this UL team seems to be missing something. The guard play still has not risen to the level needed to push the Cards to the top of this conference, but that was expected to an ongoing battle. Terrence Williams, Earl Clark and Samardo Samuels is a front-line filled with NBA potential and will see a match-up that will test them fully as Pitt will counter with Sam Young, Tyrell Biggs and DeJuan Blair.

The match-up of Blair and Samuels in the paint should be a doozy. The young Samuels is coming off a game of battling Luke Harangody and now sees another bruising force in the paint. Samuels will need to be ready to hit the boards early and often.

Pittsburgh, even against the extended Louisville pressure, will likely rely on a flawless floor game from Levance Fields. What Pitt will also need very much to come away with a road win is Sam Young to shake off a string of lackluster performances and be ‘on’, much like he was in Pitt’s Big East Tournament win over UL last season.

Winning in the road requires top notch rebounding and defense, Pitt is known for those traits and while many Pittsburghers are fixated on the NFL Odds of their beloved Steelers to make the Super Bowl, the city has a college basketball team that is mighty impressive, too.

If Louisville can find a way to get DeJuan Blair to pick up a couple early fouls, they should be able to establish the game in the style they would prefer. If Blair is able to stay on the floor and out of foul trouble, the defense and rebounding edge that Pitt brings to the table should have the Panthers grinding out another impressive win because of their consistency and acceptance of roles. I do not think the UL attack is geared to draw the cheap fouls on Blair and therefore he is on the floor enough to help control the game in Pitt’s favor.

Also, seeing that they are 2 ½-point underdogs should serve as more motivation for the Panthers, who despite the #1 ranking, believe they are still being disrespected by the nation.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 71
Louisville 65



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