CBE Classic Showdown: Pitt vs Texas
The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri is the place to be tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
Anyone who is the least bit interested in college basketball will tune to ESPN2 around this time to catch a glimpse of the No. 3 ranked Texas program taking on their toughest foe of the season, Pittsburgh.
While Pitt is nowhere near the team they were last season, one would be crazy to think that they aren’t a threat to any Top 25 team.
Pittsburgh sophomore Ashton Gibbs is now filling the shoes of departed point guard Levance Fields, and it is even plausible to say that he’s a better all-around player than Fields ever was.
He currently leads the team in scoring with 17 points per game and is shooting a remarkable 42.9 percent from beyond the arc, making him a tough player to cover.
He has the body and playmaking abilities of a point guard, but the scoring mentality of a shooting guard.
Redshirt Freshman Travon Woodall out of St. Anthony has assumed the point guard role for the Panthers this season, allowing Gibbs to focus on scoring.
His seven assists per game ranks 12th in the NCAA and fourth among freshman.
And with the arrival of McDonald’s All-American Dante Taylor, a 6-foot-9, 240 pound, freakishly athletic big man in the mold of DeJuan Blair, it’s easy to see the potential of this team in a few years.
The pieces are all there, it just comes down to leadership and experience.
Texas, on the other hand, has exactly what Pitt needs: A go-to guy who knows how to execute in pressure situations. And this savior goes by the name of Damion James.
James is a 6-7 senior swing man averaging 16.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
He has played a crucial role in his team’s success over the course of his four-year career at Texas and has never been afraid to take the big shot.
Returning alongside him is fellow senior, Dexter Pittman, as well as both Varez Ward and Gary Johnson, the core nucleus of last season’s team minus AJ Abrams.
The Longhorns, who rank second in the country in offensive efficiency, also bring in one of the most highly touted freshman classes in the country, featuring NBA lottery prospects Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton.
While it is unlikely that we will see these two players stick around for more than two years, it will be interesting to monitor the progress that they make under Rick Barnes this season.
While Pitt is by no means a pushover, Texas dominates them in the two most important attributes of any team: Talent and experience.
The Longhorns have held their opponents to just 28.4 percent from the field, and Bradley, who is known to be a great defender, should give Gibbs all sorts of problems.
With Gibbs struggling, the Panthers will have to turn to someone else, and this is where their lack of leadership might start to show.
It would be very surprising if Texas did not come away with a victory here, perhaps even by a double-digit margin.
Nonetheless, it will undoubtedly be an entertaining game to watch.
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