Opponent: Louisville Cardinals
Where: Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Noon Saturday, ESPN+
Why Pitt Fans Should Worry: Like UConn, Rick Pitino stockpiles McDonald's All-Americans, which means that Pitt should once again be at a size and athleticism disadvantage. That hasn’t bothered Pitt so far in Big East play, but it does reduce Pitt’s margin for error.
There is also the concern of Louisville’s press, which has historically given the Panthers fits. Pitt turned the ball over 20 times at Freedom Hall last season. Although Pitt has done a better job taking care of the ball in its four Big East games, they have been prone to turnovers this season, as they rank 184th in turnover frequency.
Trey Woodall is perhaps the most interesting player in tomorrow’s game. Pitt will need its guards to be on their A-game against the press, and Woodall is the team’s most natural ball handler. If Woodall doesn’t see much of the court, it will speak volumes about Jamie Dixon’s faith in the freshman.
There’s also that aside from Tom Crean that there might not be another coach in America who matches wits with Jamie Dixon the way Pitino does (Jay Wright can make an argument). Since joining the Big East, Pitt has won four of its seven matchups with the Cards, but Louisville has won three of the four regular season games.
Even more remarkable, the Cardinals are 2-0 at the Pete. Pitt owns a 124-10 record at the Pete; Louisville is the only team to win in the building twice.
Why Pitt Fans Should Be Optimistic: This Louisville team really misses Terrance Williams, especially on the defensive end. Without the ultra-athletic 6’6” swing man, the vaunted Louisville press is not quite as ferocious. Last season, Louisville ranked second nationally in defensive efficiency; this season, they rank 53rd.
While Louisville is a great offensive rebounding team (third nationally), they are not great at closing out on the defensive glass (161st nationally). Pitt is a solid rebounding team on both ends of the floor. They say the best time to shoot a three-pointer is off an offensive rebound, and if Pitt can get some offensive boards, then Ashton Gibbs should be open on the perimeter. If Gibbs gets hot, he could have another big game.
Prediction: Like most Pitt games, this is going to be a tempo battle. Louisville loves to run; Pitt wants to play a half-court game. Whoever controls the tempo will end up winning.
Call me a pessimist, but I can’t help but think the law of averages is going to catch up to the Panthers. This is also one of the few times I hate the coaching matchup. The other shoe is going to drop eventually, and I say it happens against the Cardinals (and if you think I’m ever going to pick Pitt to win before this winning streak ends, you're crazy). Louisville 77, Pitt 72 .
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