UConn Looks to KO Pitt, Capture Big East Title

Hoop WritersContributor IMarch 6, 2009

It May Look Like a Fight, But It's Just a Basketball Game

Written by Todd Parmelee, HoopWriters

It has been a slow week in college hoops, but Saturday there will finally be a marquee game when No. 1 UConn (27-2, 15-2 in Big East) takes on No. 3 Pittsburgh (27-3, 14-3) at the Petersen Events Center.  

Everyone has seen the highlights of the first meeting when Pitt won 76-68. DeJuan Blair could have been confused for Kimbo Slice's next opponent, after he scored a brilliant takedown on UConn's Hasheem Thabeet.  Rumor is that the UFC’s Dana White took notice and might be at Saturday’s game, along with 30 or so NBA scouts.

Back to the analysis. Thabeet never seemed to recover fully from the fall, as he let his emotions get the best of him, which factored into his foul trouble.  This brings us to another important factor, for once this year the calls seemed to go against UConn.

Thabeet, although he did not display it in the first matchup, has an uncanny ability to stay out of foul trouble.  On Saturday, expect him to have a solid game, with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and six blocks. 

If Thabeet gets into foul trouble, UConn will have to rely on a small lineup with Gavin Edwards as their lone front-court reserve.  

UConn needs to limit Pitt's second-chance opportunities. This means if they allow 12 to 15 offensive rebounds, they lose.  They also will have a much better chance to win this game if they can hold Pitt in the 60-point range.  


Things to Remember

UConn can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament with a victory.   A share of the conference title is also at stake if Louisville and UConn both win.

Pitt is 18-0 at home this year; and last year, when they struggled with injuries, they still managed a 7-2 record in Big East home games.

UConn is undefeated on the road.  The problem is, this is Pittsburgh, a notoriously hostile place for opposing teams to play, and Pitt also has the opportunity to win a share of the Big East Championship. 

Levance Fields shot the ball poorly from the floor in the last match up, but the two shots he did make were daggers, enabling Pitt to pull away late.

It will be Senior Day at Pitt, but it is UConn’s senior class and Hasheem Thabeet that has the most to gain.

Their legacy will be determined by whether or not they can win one of the three:  Big East Championship, Big East Tournament, or a National Championship.  If they win just one of the three, it had better be the National Championship. 

Sam Young is one of the more unheralded players in the country, averaging 18.4 points per game.  He had 25 points in the first meeting between the two schools, but this will not happen again. 

Expect Stanley Robinson and Jeff Adrien to put the clamps on him.  If UConn can hold Blair and Young to 30 points combined, they will have a good chance of winning. 

A.J. Price is the key in this game for UConn, as he kept UConn in the game last time around by hitting a couple of off-balance threes.

Price has elevated his game late in the year and is UConn's leading scorer in Big East games.  If UConn wins, expect Price to score at least 15 points, probably more.

DeJuan Blair put together one of the most dominant performances in college basketball this year when he tallied 23 points and 22 rebounds. Another performance like this and they should rename the conference player of the year award in his honor.  


Match Ups

Backcourt: Levance Fields is a warrior averaging over seven assists per game; he deserves a lot of the credit Pitt gets.   The back court edge has to go to UConn.  A.J. Price and Kemba Walker are studs. 

Frontcourt: If you compared the two teams' frontcourts before Pitt dominated UConn’s frontcourt, the edge would go to Pitt.  After Blair’s Feb. 16 "ownage" of Thabeet and Adrien, the obvious edge goes to Pittsburgh. 

Depth" Jamie Dixon went way down his bench in the last game going to his ninth and 10th guys.  UConn has been using a regular rotation for seven players, but lately Calhoun has been giving "shoot first" Scottie Haralson some minutes.



Onions/ Man-to-Man/Nickel Dimer/Loose Change/Small Change: terms you may hear a lot, as Bill Raftery will be calling the action for CBS. 

Hack-A-Hash: strategy used by opposing coaches to frustrate UConn center Hasheem Thabeet, or the name of a blog, in four years in honor of current Husky Hasheem Thabeet.

You got McGhee’d: in reference to Pittsburgh backup center, Gary McGhee, who once committed three fouls in one minute vs. UConn.

You are nothing but a McGhee: a term coaches use when berating their backup centers, who are good for nothing but committing fouls.

I was McGhee’d: a term used by a player who is fouled countless times for no reason, usually causing the player to become frustrated.  

Greatest Force: A term used, ironically not in Star Wars, but in basketball when your 7-3 center blocks nine shots against Seton Hall.

Blaired Vision:- A term coined by UConn's Dr. Jeffrey Anderson. When Dr. Jeffrey Anderson asked Hasheem Thabeet how many fingers he was holding up, after Thabeet was thrown to the ground by DeJuan Blair, Thabeet was unable to respond.

Anderson diagnosed Thabeet with Blaired Vision and a mild concussion. Thabeet later returned scoring just four points.


If It Happens in Vegas

The final score will be 74-71 UConn, I predicted Pitt to win the first matchup and i was only off by two points.    

Judging by Pitt's ability to score points at home, the safe bet is the over if it is around 140 to 142 points.    

UConn is undefeated on the year when playing as the underdog.

For more Big East basketball news go to HoopWriters.


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