Wednesday, January 28, 2009


January 28, 2009

A match-up of top 25 teams takes place in Philadelphia as Pittsburgh travels across the state to meet Villanova. The game will be the final basketball game played in the historic Spectrum which is scheduled to be razed late next summer.

Villanova is ranked #21 in the country, but they are still looking to get that win that will make pundits believe in their squad. The Wildcats have won three (SHU, USF & SJU) in Big East play and lost three (Marquette, Louisville & UConn). Their best win of the year was against Big 5 rival Temple in the out of conference schedule.

Pittsburgh comes to Philly as the hunted. The Panthers are ranked No. 3 in the country and, much like the Super Bowl participants from their city, rely on a physical style of defense that can intimidate other teams. This Pitt team also has an element of athletic ability offensively that allows them to strike quickly and put up a run of points that leaves the opponent wounded.

Here are some pregame stories and previews from the internet:

’Nova Memories Run the Spectrum (DelCo Times)
Spectrum Hosted Glorious College Games (Philly Daily News)
Villanova, Pitt Ready for Typical Big East Slugfest (Philly Daily News)
Pitt to Face Villanova With a New Twist (Tribune-Review)
Nova to Play in Landmark Spectrum Finale (Philly Inquirer)
Dixon’s Scoring Gives Pitt Shot in the Arm (Observer Reporter)

Pitt will bring a familiar look to the Spectrum that the Wildcats saw earlier this season in a game against Texas at Madison Square Garden. ‘Nova lost to the Longhorns, 67-58, while being hit hard on the boards. Texas outrebounded Jay Wright’s squad 55-38 and those second chance opportunities from the offensive rebounds made the biggest difference in the game.

Villanova will attempt to counter Pitt’s size and strength in the paint by extending their defense and trying to pressure the Panthers. In their lone loss of the season at Louisville, Pitt turned the ball over 20 times and was out of sync as UL wiped out a 10-point Pitt lead with a 19-3 run at the 8 minute mark of the second half.

Even though many point to the UL press that brought down the Panthers from their perch of a #1 ranking, it was foul trouble to DeJuan Blair that hurt Pitt the most. With Blair in the game, Pitt was able to score points on second-chance opportunities and they limited the Cards to one-shot, keeping the press from being able to set-up. Blair will be the key tonight, if he can stay on the floor, he can help Pitt control the game. If he is picking up little reach or bump fouls 25+ feet away from the basket and finds himself saddled to the bench with fouls, the dynamic of Pitt’s team changes.

Villanova is very guard-driven on offense, so Jermaine Dixon will be key once again for Pitt and the long and athletic, 6-foot-3 guard will be challenged with stopping Scottie Reynolds. What makes Pitt so tough is that Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown come off the bench and the defensive ability hardly misses a beat. Pitt can also go big with Sam Young as a small forward or slide him to the power forward spot and match-up with the smaller Wildcat line-up, but still hold a size and athletic advantage.

The Panthers are a pretty healthy 3 ½-point favorite on the road. Keeping in mind the Texas game from earlier this season, Pitt is a tough match-up for the Wildcats as they will be able to attack their weaknesses while not giving up an athletic advantage to the ‘Nova backcourt. Even though it is a ‘home’ game and will have a historical value being the final basketball game in the Spectrum, this is far from being the home court for Villanova. Look for Pitt to control this game and put it away with a couple impressive runs as long as DeJuan Blair is able to be on the floor.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 72
Villanova 65



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