Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pitt Preview

These guys are good. Damn good. One thing I know is this team will be prepared. They are on a mission this season to get to the Final Four and beyond. On paper nothing tells me they don't have a great shot at fulfilling their dreams. Here is a quick look at their projected starting 5 and other rotation players tomorrow night:

1- Levance Fields 5-10 190 Sr #2
He is the straw that stirs the drink with 7.6 assists per game for them on offense. I question his listed weight but make no mistake this guy is one of college basketball's premier point guards this season. Not an outstanding 3 point shooter,33%, but he hits enough to keep teams honest. They are a halfcourt style team but they will run on opportunity and Mr. Fields is stellar on the break. He is a solid defender and is the third leading scorer on the team at 10.6 PPG.

2- Jermaine Dixon 6-3 195 Jr #3
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported today that Dixon is a better shooter than BJ Raymond. Ok. He averages 30% from deep but BJ hits 42%. The Post Gazette's reporting should be no slight on Jermaine as he can still score the ball (8.7 PPG) and plays 25 minutes a game. To be getting those kind of minutes for Pitt he is a solid basketball player. Many will remember his brother from Maryland a few years back in Juan Dixon.

3- Sam Young 6-6 220 Sr #23
Everybody knows about his famous shot fakes. He gets many defenders to bite on that one especially on the perimeter. It's effective because he can drill shots from anywhere on the floor if left open. He averages 37% from deep but is also a great finisher around the rim. He is a All American/NBA prospect type player who will be a handful to contain. He scores close to 19 points a game and is coming off a 32 point outburst against Oklahoma State.

4- Tyrell Biggs 6-8 250 Sr #5
This burly player can actually step outside and knock down shots as well. He has hit 19-48 from trey land. He is not as good a rebounder as his size might indicate (4.4 per game) but is there anything to be had with Blair around? He too plays about 25 minutes a game.

5-DeJuan Blair 6-7 265 So #45
Everybody knows about this guy. To me he is a cross between Glen 'Big Baby' Davis and Danny Fortson. He led the nation with 185 offensive rebounds and averages 12.3 RPG. He converted many of those 'o' caroms into points. The teams second leading scorer at 15.8 is a huge key to this game. Ask Hasheem Thabeet how tough DeJuan is. I know from watching several Panther games this season that he can score in a variety of ways besides gimme put backs. He is an All American.


G- Brad Wanamaker 6-4 205 So #22
I remember X recruiting this Philly product out of Roman Catholic HS a couple of years ago. He can get it going from outside (40%) and is capable of scoring outbursts. For the season he averaged 5.8 PPG.

G/F- Gilbert Brown 6-6 200 So #11
Gilbert is not a great shooter but is long and lean. He averages the most minutes a night off the bench and scores 5.2 points per game. He has a good all around floor game and is a highly rated prospect waiting his turn behind Young.

G- Ashton Gibbs 6-2 190 Fr #12
Gibbs is a prolific shooter from deep (47%) and can provide sparks off the bench. He averages 4.6 PPG and provides nice backcourt depth for the Panthers.

C- Gary McGhee 6-10 250 So #52
Big fella provides relief to Blair in the post. My hope is he plays triple the 6.8 minutes he usually gets. All hoping aside he is an extra five fouls a night if needed for Pitt. He has not had many opportunities yet to show his entire game.

F- Nasir Robinson 6-5 220 Fr #35
Another highly regarded recruit who saw his minutes decrease once Big East play started. He has proven to be a solid rebounder in his limited minutes.

Obviously to beat Pitt the team is going to have to be on their "A" game. Xavier cannot get behind early and play catchup all night with this team. Their defense is too good. I believe X will have a variety of players match up with Blair including Love, Frease, McLean and Brown. They could front him and you may even see a little zone as a change of pace from the Musketeers. However considering Pitt's rebounding strength that may not be beneficial for long periods of time. Dante' and Tutu have to hold their own against Fields. He is capable of taking over games for them. I also think Derrick, CJ, and BJ all spend time guarding Young and Biggs. We could be in big trouble if one of the Panthers support players score double digits.

I like coach Sean Miller's take on the game:
'We've been in the Elite 8 last year, our opponent wasn't. We have five guys on our team that played in that game. We've won 30, 25, 27 games the last three years. We have 3 straight A10 regular season titles and been on TV before. This is a big game because of our opponent and because they're a great team. The fact that it remains anything more here is irrelevant. Those days ended a long time ago at Xavier.'

Also Dante' is stepping up as a team leader:
'We have a lot of respect for Pitt. We respect them and know what they're capable of and know what they are. But we're going to Boston to advance.'

Go Muskies!

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