Saturday, February 14, 2009


February 14, 2009

On the football field, they call this one the River City Rivalry as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, linked by the Ohio River, battle for possession of the River City Rivalry Trophy. Apparently ESPN believes this is a rivalry on the hardwood as well as the Panthers and Bearcats will meet in the Steel City at 4 PM for an ESPN televised clash during the Rivalry Week celebration.

The Panthers are 9-2 in Big East play and 22-2 on the season and playing for NCAA Tournament seeding here on out. Pitt is coming off a 70-59 win over rival West Virginia on Monday night to kick off Rivalry Week and now will look to cap off the week against Cincinnati, ahead of the ‘Big Monday’ match-up against No. 1 Connecticut.

Before Pitt can begin thinking about UConn, they better have their full attention centered on Cincinnati as Mick Cronin’s club has won seven of their last nine games and are now 7-5 in the Big East and have their own thoughts of the NCAA Tournament.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on the game:

Newcomers Giving Panthers Boost in 3’s (Post-Gazette)
Young Fueled by Brother’s Plight (Times Leader)
Guru’s Bracket Excludes UC (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Defense Still Part of Pitt’s Repertoire (Beaver County Times)
Pitt Focused on Cincinnati (Tribune Review)
Pitt Not Surprised by Cincinnati’s Success (Tribune Review)
Pitt Needs More Consistent Young on the Court (Post Gazette)

This is not a particularly good match-up for Cincinnati. While the Bearcats are deeper and bigger in the frontcourt than previous editions in the Big East, they really do not have any one area they stand out in over Pitt in their match-ups. While Deonta Vaughn torched the Panthers last season in the Pitt wins, he will see a variety of defenders coming at him and it happens to be their strongest defenders (Jermaine Dixon and Bran Wanamaker) that will be getting the call most often. The duo has more size and are likely to match up athletically with Vaughn, making it tough to believe Vaughn is going to be able to beat Pitt by himself.

The other way UC can try and beat Pitt is by getting DeJuan Blair in foul trouble. While it worked on Monday for WVU, getting Blair in foul trouble, Pitt seemed more comfortable playing without the big ‘fella’ than they did in the past and won by double digits over a good WVU team with Blair playing just 16 minutes.

Pittsburgh really is beginning to look like a team that potentially has any answer for any type of team. While they will still be susceptible to foul trouble on Blair, they can still get by with senior forwards Tyrell Biggs and Sam Young logging the minutes in the frontcourt. If Blair is not in foul trouble, nobody has really been able to challenge Pitt this season. In their two losses (at Louisville and at Villanova) and their closest wins (by 8 at Florida State, by 6 at Rutgers and by 11 vs. WVU), Blair averaged just 18 minutes and seven points and 8 rebounds, well below his season averages (15 points, 12.6 rebounds and 26 minutes). In the other 19 contests, nobody has come within 12 points of beating the Panthers. Sure, tougher tests may lie ahead to challenge that theory, like Monday night, but in this one, it is likely to follow the same pattern.

Still, expect a spirited effort from UC and Pitt possibly looking ahead just a bit. But, as Levance Fields gets control of the game and Blair and Young start to do their thing, Pitt will pull away.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Pittsburgh 74
Cincinnati 61



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