Who: Pittsburgh Panthers @ Seton Hall Pirates
When: Sunday, January 24th, 2 pm. ESPN360.
Skinny: Panthers are coming in with an overall record of 15-3, 5-1 in the Big East, and 4-0 on the road.
This is Pitt's first game since January 20th, when they suffered their first conference loss at the hands of a very tough Georgetown team. Prior to the loss, Pitt had won eight straight, five of which were in conference, including road wins against Syracuse, UConn, and Cincinnati.
Seton Hall enters this game with an overall record of 11-6, 2-4 in the BE, and 9-3 at home.
The Pirates, who began the season 8-0, have been inconsistent of late, losing five of their last seven. However, they are coming off an impressive home win against Louisville.
In terms of Big East standing, this game is important for both teams.
Pitt needs to win this game to keep some separation between themselves and the middle of the pack. If Pitt loses, they fall from third in the conference to fifth, and would be only one game up on four teams who have three conference losses.
Seton Hall, with a win against Pitt, would get back into the think of things. A loss for the Pirates, and they fall into the bottom three of the BE.
After Seton Hall, Pitt's next two games are against St. Johns and South Florida, who have a combined three conference wins. So, as much as Pitt would love to have this game, it is not a must win.
If the Pirates expect to upset the Panthers, they will need a big same from junior star Jeremy Hazell. Hazell comes into this game averaging 23 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game. He is also coming off of an excellent performance against the Cardinals where he scored 25 points on 9-12 shooting and played in all but one minute of the game.
In my opinion, Pitt will be able to contain Hazell. At 6'5" and a lean 188 pounds, a physical specimen he is not. Pitt's tough, hard nosed guards should be able to keep him in check.
I think this game is going to come down to how this young Panther team responds, coming off an emotional home loss to the Hoyas. Have they gotten over the loss? Will they still be reeling? These are the questions I have.
Pitt is going to go down early after a very sluggish start. Once they wake up, around midway through the first half, they will make this a game. From the second half and on, I fully expect this game to be back and forth.
Ultimately, I think Pitt will win this game. They have shown they can prevail down the stretch of close games with both clutch play and free throw shooting. Pitt 66 Seton Hall 61.