Who: Georgetown Hoyas vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
Where: Peterson Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Wednesday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m. ESPNU
This is a going to be an instant classic between two of the better teams in the Big East this year.
The Panthers come in with a record of 15-2 and are 5-0 in the Big East. It's safe to say, thus far this season, they are the surprise team of the NCAA. Pitt is currently ranked No. 16 in the AP poll and No. 10 in Jameson Fleming's B/R Top 25.
Georgetown comes into Pittsburgh a strong 13-3 record and are 4-2 in the Big East. The Hoyas are coming off a close loss to Villanova. G-Town is ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and No. 12 in the B/R poll.
In their only matchup last season, the Panthers took it to the Hoyas, winning 70-54 in D.C. They were no match for DeJuan Blair, who had 20 points and 17 rebounds as he flat out dominated Greg Monroe. Pitt out-rebounded G-Town 46-21, had 48 points in the paint to the Hoyas 22, and won the bench scoring battle 14-2.
I have to assume the game this year will be a tad different. For one, Pitt no longer has superstar DeJuan Blair. This raises the question of who will be matching up with likely All-American Greg Monroe? He has added more weight to his frame, skill to his game since the pounding last year, and is fresh off a 29 point and 16 rebound game against Nova.
My fear for Pitt is that they don't have one individual player to matchup with Monroe. The first thought would be to stick 6'10", 250 pound Gary McGhee on him. He matches Monroe in height and weight (6'11", 245), but I don't believe he can match Monroe's quickness. Monroe, for being 6'11", is super athletic. He has no problem taking a defender off the dribble and will occasionally spot up from three-point land.
The other option, if Pitt chooses to play man defense, would be to stick Nasir Robinson on him. Robinson, although a much smaller 6'5", certainly has the heart and desire for this assignment and would be able to contend with Monroe's quickness. However, the problem Pitt may run into with this matchup, is that Monroe is a tad too tough down low for Robinson. Along with Monroe's off the dribble game, he is a nightmare to handle in the post.
You may think the obvious solution is for Pitt to sit in a 2-3 zone. Well, that could smell trouble for the Panthers as well. The Hoyas have two guards in Jason Clark and Austin Freeman who both shoot upwards of 40 percent from three-point land.
What would I do? Play man defense and put Robinson on him. When he does get into the paint, I would double down with McGhee. They key is going to be keeping him out of the paint. Force him to take outside shots and frustrate him with physical play. If he gets into foul trouble, this could be an easy victory for the Panthers.
For Pitt to pull out a victory they will need to continue to play at the high level that got them wins against Syracuse, UConn, and Louisville. Winning the battle in the paint is a must. Pitt cannot give this feisty G-Town team too many second chance opportunities.
If Pitt does end up losing, there is no reason for concern. After Georgetown, their next three games are against Seton Hall, St. Johns, and South Florida. All three are very winnable games.
As much as I would love to pick Pitt, I am afraid their impressive eight game win streak may come to an end. I think Georgetown presents too many matchup problems for Pitt. In addition, I'm sure John Thompson lll is going to remind his Hoyas of the beat-down in D.C. last season. In a close game, I like the Hoyas, 72-67.
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