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Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

Posted on: February 16, 2009 11:07 am

What a game scheduled for tonight.  Jerome Dyson's injury takes just a little bit off the luster of this game, but this is two teams deservedly in the top 5 full of players with superlatives going toe-to-toe for favorite status is one of the toughest leagues ever.  The winner probably gets a stranglehold on a 1 seed in March, and heck, the loser stays in line for one provided they can split the two games these teams will play.  So how will it turn out?  It's so close that a lot of things need to be considered.  Here's how the matchups work 1-5:

PG LeVance Fields versus AJ Price

I give the edge to Fields, because he leads the nation in Assist to Turnover ratio and is on an incredibly hot streak (56 assists to 6 TOs in the last 5 games) He has had 13 or more assists in three of those.  Price is a little bit better scorer, though, so it's not a really huge edge.

SG Jermaine Dixon versus Kemba Walker/Craig Austrie

This one's a push for me.  Dyson would've given a big edge to the Huskies, but without him Walker and Austire will need to step up.  They are capable, but Dixon has come on in Big East play and found his shot...and he's a second weapon to really drive in to the basket.

SF Sam Young versus Jeff Adrien

The fact that these two guys aren't the key matchup of the game shows just how good these teams are.  I give the edge to Young because both guys are averaging a double-double but Young has significantly more points, and he can get anyone to bite on that ball fake.  Like the previous positions, though, it's close.

PF Tyrell Biggs versus Stanley Robinson

This one goes to Robinson.  Biggs is a quality player, but is Robinson, but his good is a little beter and his bad isn't as bad.  The game may hinge more on the play of these two guys than most realize.

C DeJuan Blair versus Hasheem Thabeet

This is the matchup everyone's been looking for (outside of either of these guys vs. Blake Griffin, maybe).  Both are the best in the nation at something (Blair at offensive rebounds, Thabeet at shot blocking).  I think Blair is the better scorer with better touch, but Thabeet's presence will certainly neutralize at least some of that.  Both kids are true athletes, and the matchup should be great to watch but is too close to call.  IF the game is called tightly, the edge here goes to UConn because they work the whistle better than any team in the country and Blair has noted problems with ticky-tacky fouls.  All else being equal, I'll give it to Thabeet.

So, among the starters 2 Pitt players and 2 Connecticut players have an edge in my opinion, but all 5 are very close battles...These teams are strong at the same positions but in different ways.  It makes this almost the perfect basketball matchup.

Moving to the bench, though, there are still some interesting matchups.  I'd have easily given the edge to the Huskies were Dyson still healthy, but now I'm not so sure.  In fact, it seems to swing the other way for me because it emasn that either Walker or Austrie will not be the sixth man.

Pittsburgh's bench features Gilbert Brown, who hasn't lived up to his potential thus far but is a very talented athlete who finally started making an impact recently, Brad Wannamaker who's a bit of a surprise of late, Ashton Gibbs who has the best 3-pt. percentage in the Big East (though he barely qualifies), Gary McGhee who will get destroyed by Thabeet but can hold his own against the Husky bench, and Nasir Robinson who may get some minutes if McGhee has it rough.

Connecticut's bench, however, features Kemba Walker (unless it's Austrie) who may be the best freshman guard in the league, Gavin Edwards, who has played some quality minutes and is something like Wannamaker in potential, Scottie Haralson who hasn't really been scoring, and a bunch of role-players averaging less than a point per game.  So the Dyson injury really hurts this team in terms of depth, and the bench edge now goes to Pitt.

Even though I have the starting 5 basically even and give the bench edge to Pitt, I can't pick my Panthers to win this tough road game.  The reason is that I'm not sure Connecticut will NEED many minutes from their bench because their starters are almost never in foul trouble.  Pitt, on the other hand, plays a very physical game that may land them in foul trouble, especially on the road against the team with the best FT differential in the league.  If it goes down that way, several minutes will be Pitt's reserves against Connecticut's starters...and Pitt's bench, while strong, is not nearly as good as UConn's fantastic starting lineup.  Final Pick:

Connecticut 75

Pittsburgh 69.


Since: Jul 30, 2007
Posted on: February 17, 2009 10:16 am

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

Nice analysis.  Blair is a beast and intimidated Thabeet from the opening tip.  You make a good point, however, that the matchup could play out differently in a more tightly officiated game...which this clearly was not.

Uconn needs to start Walker if they want a chance at a final 4 run.  He is not Dyson, but brings much more to the table than Austrie. 

Since: Aug 15, 2008
Posted on: February 17, 2009 10:11 am

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut


Since: Dec 8, 2008
Posted on: February 17, 2009 5:20 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Mar 25, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 6:16 pm

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

Great analysis, you sure did your homework. I only hope you are wrong on the final score. IF, Blair stays out of foul trouble and plays 35 minutes Pitt will win.

Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2009 6:05 pm

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

i happen to be a big cardnial fan looking into tonights game , i watched last week , as thug!! beat jumped on a players legs out of bounds then watched him throw a flagerant elbow and he continues to get away with this , ithink mr blair wont let him thug his way tonight, he is a very talented player who doesnt need to play getto ball , and hes going up against a experinced player who he seems to struggle against, i do give the edge to uconn at home, but if they call the game right it could be pitt who wins, make no mistake

i m not bad mouthing uconn just THUGBEAT

Since: Jan 15, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2009 4:48 pm

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

I actually would rather see Pitt come facing Thabeet on a hot streak than coming off an awful performance.  The big guys tend to follow up awful nights with huge ones, and now Thabeet doesn't have anything to prove.  I'm not saying he won't show up, but Blair and Harangody, for example, always follow up a bad night with 20+ the next time out.  Thabeet might come out with just a little bit less tenacity than if he were embarrassed at Seton Hall.

Since: Jul 1, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 4:20 pm

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

Not to overate the importance of this game for UCONN, but this will give you a true look at whether they can still be a favorite for the National Championship without Jerome Dyson.  In my opinion, it all comes down to the outside shooting of AJ Price.  If Price can stretch the floor a little early, then dribble, drive and dish to Adrien and Thabeet on the inside, I think UCONN can take it.

The other interesting thing to watch tonight is if Thabeet's recent run continues as he establishes himself as a top 5 pick in the NBA Draft.  Early in the season, he dissappeared to the background a little.  Not lately and coming off a 25/20/9 out.


Can't wait for the game tonight!

Since: Jan 15, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2009 2:24 pm

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

I think either result leaves both teams as 1 seeds for now, so there's not a lot of pressure on either team.  If anything, there's a LITTLE bit on Connecticut because they're number one and it's in their place.  That makes it great...because we know we'll see both teams playing for bragging rights.

Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 1:20 pm

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

Great analysis...

I am looking for the Pitt bench to play a big role in this game... Brown and Wannamaker have really begun to shine and Dixon is using them well... we will need some scoring from those two and Gibbs as the going will be tough in the middle...  am thinking that Blair and Young will struggle offensively as the UConn defense is stout... and the eraser on the back line helps out on those ball fake moves of Young... Blair will have to understand that he needs to remain on the floor (as pointed out by another poster, let's hope the refs let them play --- it is in UConn) so no reaching in fouls, no ticky tack fouls...

One thing to keep an eye on... will Pitt use their minds to overcome the UConn talent... what I mean is that when you face such a dominant shot blocker, sometimes you miss shots on purpose... what??? you might ask, as a former Big East player, I had an understanding that I was not going to out jump many of those I played against... so I would take a shot with the idea of it going long for my teammate to collect offensive rebounds and easy putbacks as I took the shot blaocker out of the equation... maybe Young and or others will look for this 'pass' off the backboard to Blair on the weakside as Thabeet comes over for the block???

As for the final... I hope that Pitt uses this game to prepare for the tourney... a tough road game, with a hostile corwd, should provide the Pitt Panthers with a true test... let's stay composed... let's play smart and learn from this game, a win tonight would be great, but a solid game despite the score will be more valuable in March and April...

Since: Feb 8, 2009
Posted on: February 16, 2009 1:17 pm

Number 4 Pittsburgh visits Number 1 Connecticut

Pretty good preview on the game Baster; however, I will believe Pitt will win IF Blair stays out of foul trouble.  Every game lost by Pitt this season, Blair was in foul trouble and was had limited playing time.  If Blair can manage to stay out of foul trouble, Pitt will win. 

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