Wednesday, January 14, 2009


January 14, 2009

The Pittsburgh Panthers begin their second week ranked as the nation's #1 team in America and will welcome in the South Florida Bulls. USF has a little momentum heading into this game coming off a stunningly easy 80-58 road win over DePaul on Saturday. It was just the Bulls' second conference road win in their 3+ years in the Big East.

Here are some of the pregame stories and previews found on the web today:

South Florida Guards to Test Panthers (Tribune-Review)
Pitt's Perfect Starts Set Pace for Season (Post-Gazette)
Bulls Excited About Playing #1 Panthers (Tampa Tribune)
Pitt's Dixon Moving up on Victory List, Notes (Tribune-Review)
USF Bulls' Guard Faces Friend Tonight in Pittsburgh (St. Pete Times)

Pitt is coming off a 90-67 home win over St. John's from Sunday afternoon. It was the first game for the Panthers in eight days and their first with their #1 ranking. Pitt started a bit slow as it looked as they had some rust from the layoff and felt some pressure with their new top-dog status. Once they got their feet under them, they rolled to an impressive win.

DeJuan Blair led the way with an impressive 23-points, 15-rebound, 6-steal performance in the paint. Tonight, USF is going to have a very hard time keeping Blair off the glass and out of the lane as the young and thin Bulls frontcourt will be tested from start to finish.

Blair and Pitt's leading scorer Sam Young are very tough match-ups for most teams in the country and the Bulls are no exception as their size and strength advantage will be hard to overcome. Even if USF sags into a zone defense, the Panthers will bound the glass and turn defensive pressure into scoring opportunities as they are excellent at scoring in transition when the opportunity presents itself.

The Bulls will need to take care of the basketball and hope that Blair picks up a couple cheap fouls 30-feet from the basket, which he can be prone to do. Pressure from wing guards Dominique Jones and Jesus Verdejo offensively could cause Pitt some troubles, but there are are few teams as athletic and detail-oriented on defense as Pitt.

The latest college basketball odds have Pitt as a 20 1/2-point favorite. While there is little doubt that Pitt's inside strength and defensive prowess would have little trouble covering this number more often than not, look for the Bulls to stay within that number at the final horn. Pitt has a date with Louisville on Saturday evening and a game back home on Monday with top-10 Syracuse. Not only could they be looking ahead, but when they do reach a cruising altitude with their lead, look for some liberal substitutions from Jamie Dixon to get some players more time and for the Bulls to play this one out to the end.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 81
South Florida 64



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