Panther Preview: How Does Pittsburgh Match Up with UConn?

Paul SieversAnalyst IJanuary 12, 2010

HARTFORD, CT - FEBRUARY 16:  Hasheem Thabeet #34 of the Connecticut Huskies and DeJuan Blair #45 of the Pittsburgh Panthers fight for the rebound on February 16, 2009 at XL Center  in Hartford, Connecticut. Thabeet was thrown to the ground on the play.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Opponent: UConn Huskies


Where: XL Center Hartford, CT


When: 7pm ESPN2


Why Pitt fans should worry: The Huskies are big, much bigger than the Panthers. UConn starts a frontline of three 6’9” players. Stanley Robinson is going to be the biggest match-up nightmare for the Panthers. At 6’9” with NBA caliber athletic ability, Robinson is the exact kind of player that the Panther’s undersized frontcourt struggles with. It doesn’t help that Robinson has been scoring the ball with great efficiency with a FG percentage over 50 percent and a 3PT FG percentage over 45 percent.


The Panthers will also struggle with UConn’s backcourt. Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker are both very quick, with the possible exception of the Texas game this will be the most athletic set of guards the Panthers will face all year. While Dyson can shoot the three, both guards are better at taking their defender off the bounce. Pitt has had better success defending guards who prefer to score from the perimeter.


UConn defends the interior very will. They are eighth in America in 2PT FG percentage and second nationally in blocked shots. Pitt’s only chance for easy lay-ups is to get out in transition and UConn isn’t exactly uncomfortable with a 94 foot game.


There is also the fact that this game will be played in Hartford and after last season’s two hotly contested games with the Huskies, the crowd will be pumped.


Why Pitt fans should be optimistic: Pitt is playing really well lately, and they were able to handle Syracuse’s front line which is as big and athletic as UConn’s. UConn’s interior defense will be negated by Pitt’s inability to score the ball down low. Uconn’s defensive weakness is perimeter defense and Pitt’s strength is perimeter offense, if Aston Gibbs and company are hitting from the outside then they will be in this game.


The Huskies also lack depth, their bench only accounts for 16.6 percent of the team’s minutes which is the worst total in America. This could be a rare occasion where a quick whistle will favor the Panthers. If Pitt could get the Huskies into foul trouble (something that doesn’t happen to UConn often) they should have a very good chance to win this game.


Despite their lack of size, the Panthers are the better rebounding team. If UConn isn’t shooting well then Pitt should have few problems limiting the Huskies to one shot.


Prediction : Too much has gone right for Pitt lately. They’ve had too great shooting games in a row; the law of averages says Pitt will slow down at some point. At the end of the day there will be too much emotion in the XL center and too much Stanly Robinson. Pitt’s lack of a frontcourt is finally going to catch up with them in this one. UConn 71 Pitt 63.


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