This Week at the Pete: Finally Time for Conference Games

Paul SieversAnalyst IDecember 28, 2008

"This Week at the Pete" is a weekly column that takes a look at all things Pitt basketball. Your comments are more than welcome, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

After last week's reassurance that this column is in fact a national obsession, I felt obligated to write a holiday addition of TWATP. (Catchy, isn‘t it? I came up with it myself.) No games to recap so let's get right into the previews.

Games This Week

Dec. 31: @ Rutgers 2pm

After last year’s stunning 77-64 upset at the hands of Scarlet Knights, the Panthers will look to exact some revenge in Piscataway. Rutgers is a young but talented team led by two freshmen, guard Mike Rosario and forward Greg Echenique. The two freshmen combine to average 40 percent of Rutgers scoring.

While Rosario will probably be matched up against Greg Echenique, who will give Rosario fits, Echenique could be a mismatch for Tyrell Biggs at power forward. Sam Young and DeJuan Blair will have to make sure they are ready to provide weak side help on Echenique.

While Rutgers has potential and a home-court advantage, Pitt has the edge in experience, depth, and discipline. Pitt will also be seeking revenge, I expect Pitt to win by double digits.

Jan. 3: @ Georgetown 12pm

One would have to imagine that Georgetown circled this game on their calendar after losing to Pitt in last year's Big East tournament final. While the names on the backs of Georgetown’s jerseys have changed, the results have not.

This Georgetown team is playing the same Princeton style offense and tenacious half-court defense that has become a staple of the program.

These two teams match up very well with each other; I think this game will come down to guard play, specifically the point guards, Chris Wright and Levance Fields. Wright averages 14 points per game so Levance will have to pay extra attention to his defensive responsibilities.

If Levance plays a really good game, Pitt will have a great chance, but I expect Georgetown to play with overwhelming energy and hand the Panthers their first loss of the year.

An Early Look at the Bracket

Pitt is currently No. 1 in the RPI poll. For those of you who are not familiar with the RPI, it is a computerized ranking based on a team’s record and strength of schedule. The RPI is the only ranking that the NCAA tournament committee uses when they select the field of 65. The No. 1 team in the RPI almost always ends up with a one seed in the tournament.

Many pundits have taken shots at Pitt’s easy schedule to date. According to the RPI, Pitt has played the sixth toughest schedule in America, which is very surprising. While it is still very early in the year, this is a very encouraging sign for the Panthers.

Shameless Plug

I started reading Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirley. The book details Shirley’s professional basketball career that was anything but stable. Shirley’s first-hand description of his experiences playing in the NBA, ABA, CBA, and Europe is hilarious. If you like your basketball with a heavy dose of sarcasm, you will love this book.