Pittsburgh-St. John's: Five Things To Look For

Paul SieversAnalyst IJanuary 27, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 24:  Ashton Gibbs #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers shoots over Avery Bradley #0 of the Texas Longhorns during the CBE Classic championship game on November 24, 2009 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

5. D.J. Kennedy’s homecoming

DeJuan Blair’s former Schenely High teammate will come back home to play in his hometown for the second time in his college career. The junior is averaging 15 points and six rebounds a game this year. Let's see how he plays in front of friends and family.

It will also be interesting to see how the Red Storm incorporate Anthony Mason, Jr. into their rotation as he is returning from injury. If Mason can rapidly get back into the swing of things then he will present an added problem for the Pitt defense.

4. Pitt’s zero game home win streak

The Panthers saw their 31-game home win streak snapped by Georgetown last week. They are also in the midst of their first two-game losing streak since 2008. Let's see if the Panthers come out with their hair on fire or if they allow their opponents to continue to out-hustle them.

3. The ESPNU curse

Is it just me or do the Panthers never play well when they’re on “the U?"

Both the football and basketball teams have lost two of their last three games on the network.

This might be more of a football curse as Pitt has seen their worst loss of each of the past two seasons occur on ESPNU, but Jamie Dixon’s squad has yet to put a solid 40 minutes together on this network.

2. Can Ashton Gibbs snap his cold streak?

Over the last two games, Ashton has shot 7-of-31 from the field and 3-of-15 from deep. What’s more troubling is that the entire offense has been overly-dependent on Ashton getting hot. Against Seton Hall, nobody seemed willing to grab the conch from Ashton.

Ashton is a great shooter but he is not the team’s only weapon. Brad Wanamaker, Jermaine Dixon, Gilbert Brown, and Nasir Robinson have all shown they can put the ball in the basket, but it would be nice for one of them to prove that they can do it on any given night if the team needs a scorer.

1. Where’s the defense?

The Panthers have not played well defensively since their win against UConn. St. John’s ranks 146th in offensive efficiency ,  so if the Panthers decide to defend like the Panthers of old then the Red Storm might be in for a long night.

If Pitt can take care of business and beat the teams they are supposed to beat then they will not only make their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament, they will have a good seed come Selection Sunday. This team already has their marquee wins, now the situation calls for avoiding bad losses.

St. John’s at home is a game Pitt should win. The Red Storm have some nice players in Kennedy, Anthony Mason, Jr., and Paris Horne, but their overall level of talent is not on par with the Panthers.

Add in the home crowd and the fact that Pitt needs this game and anything other than a W is unacceptable.

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