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20 March 2009

Let's Get it On!

Today, at roughtly 2:45-2:55 pm, Pitt will play East Tennessee State in a first round game of the NCAA tournament.


With a victory today against No. 16 seed East Tennessee State (23-10) in an East Region first-round game, Coach Jamie Dixon will tie the Division I record for most wins by a coach in his first six seasons.
How did he get to be so good? He said he was smart enough to figure out he needed good players.
Here's an article on Coach Dixon, talking about how he's as intense as ever: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/college/s_616951.html.
Here is a breakdown of the individual player matchups, courtesy of Pantherlair.com

East Tennessee St. vs. Pitt

No. 1 seed Pitt opens its 2008-09 NCAA Tournament run this afternoon when the Panthers open up against East Tennessee State. In advance of the game, PantherLair.com senior writer Tony Greco breaks down the matchup.

Courtney Pigram vs. Levance Fields
The only question with Fields right now is his health. It's a toss-up for Jamie Dixon: does he play Fields, risking the chance of aggravating his groin injury, or does he rest him, putting him at risk of accumulating rust over the weekend? The ideal scenario would be for Dixon to get Fields 10-15 minutes, then turn it over to his bench. On the flipside, Pitt's biggest challenge will be controlling ETSU's backcourt. Pigram, a senior, is a threat as a three-point shooter and is the Buccaneers top assist-man. Pigram averages over six three-point attempts a game and has converted 33 percent of those. With Pitt having a size advantage inside, expect Pigram's three-point attempts to be in the double-digits. This is NCAA Tournament time, and entering as a 16-seed, ETSU will have to be aggressive in situations like these.

Edge: Pitt

Kevin Tiggs vs. Jermaine Dixon
Tiggs is the Buccaneers' leading scorer, averaging 21.5 points a game. If anyone causes the biggest matchup difficulties, it will be him and Mike Smith. With that said, don't be surprised if Tiggs lines up at the three with Smith at the two. Tiggs, though standing at 6-4, is a guard with the presence of a big-man, which may make up for ETSU's lack of size. Tiggs has turned the ball over more than any player on his team, while also leading the team in steals. Unfortunately for Tiggs, Dixon is Pitt's best perimeter defender. Tiggs has the task of helping out as much as possible in the rebounding department. Dixon has gone up against every good guard in the Big East and hasn't disappointed. His best games offensively (19 points vs. Louisville) haven't really factored much in Pitt losses, just as his worst games. He fouled out against UConn, but the Panthers didn't really need him on offense. Dixon's main focus for this game is defense.

Edge: Pitt

Mike Smith vs. Sam Young
Smith could also line up at the two against Dixon. He is really a forward with guard-like skills. He is the Buccaneers' best overall shooter, best three-point shooter, and the team's top rebounder. Smith has the biggest challenge he has faced all year in facing Sam Young. Down the stretch, no player was more consistent than Sam Young. Despite leading the Panthers with 15 points in the loss to West Virginia last week, Young shot around 33 percent, well below his season average. If he stays within the realm of Pitt's offense, getting good looks instead of trying to make the big play every time down the court, Pitt will be fine.

Edge: Pitt

Greg Hamlin vs. Tyrell Biggs
A matchup between two players that average around five points and five rebounds a game. Both are the forgotten players in their starting lineup, mostly because of the star power surrounding them. Biggs showed ability to get a key three-pointer or hunt down a loose ball earlier in the season, but that really hasn't been seen since the conference season began. However, being a senior that is playing every minute for his career, and a senior who has played in five NCAA tournament games in his career gives him the edge over Hamlin - that and the 40-pound weight advantage he'll have inside. Hamlin is a senior and does bring experience. Biggs has already played in some bigger games though.

Edge: Pitt

Isiah Brown vs. DeJuan Blair
DeJuan Blair has already played on many big stages this season. He's established himself as one of the top overall players in the Big East and as an All-American. It's safe to say Blair has established himself as a Pitt legend. Now he attempts to take that next step as a college basketball legend. Tournament success in March comes from performance from big-time players showing up in this two-week stretch, and Blair has that opportunity. Brown worked his way into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman, and though he has been an average rebounder, he shoots at a clip of 67 percent. He's got a tough task in going up against Blair. Look for freshman center Seth Coy, at 6-11, to come off the bench early and often to help provide a double on Blair.

Edge: Pitt

Depth: ETSU Bench vs. Pitt Bench
If the Panthers get up in this game, it will be a good opportunity to get the bench players some experience. Fortunately for the Panthers, a few of the bench players have at least played on this main stage before. Gilbert Brown played in both NCAA games last year, and Brad Wanamaker and Gary McGhee both played in the first round win over Oral Roberts. For now, Wanamaker and Brown are the key bench players. The Panthers should get in a situation where McGhee and freshmen Nasir Robinson and Ashton Gibbs get in the game. ETSU uses a comfortable rotation of eight and sometimes nine players. This Pitt game looks like one where they will use nine. Adam Sollazzo is the key bench player, appearing in all 33 games and making 12 starts. Jarvis Jones and Micah Williams played in all but one game this year, and freshman center Seth Coy appeared in 24. Sollazzo, at 6-6, is a bit of a matchup problem at the two. Jones, Williams and Sollazzo could appear at any of the three guard spots, allowing starters Smith and Tiggs to move around in different spots. If these teams have anything in common, it's definitely the versatility of their rosters. Expect to see a lot of players in a lot of different spots.

Edge: Pitt
Overall: ETSU vs. Pitt


Lets face it: history is on Pitt's side for at least this first round. A No. 16-seed has never knocked off a No. 1 seed in the tournament. The only comparison these two teams have, are deep benches. ETSU's backcourt players are the go-to guys, and there's really no reason for Pitt to have any problem dominating in the paint. ETSU might employ a zone, similar to West Virginia, which has given the Panthers problems all year. They almost have to employ a zone, given their lack of size, and the odds facing them. The most important thing for Pitt in this game is to shake off the rust, since this will be the Panthers' second game in two weeks. The time off is good, but this team has shown in recent years that it struggles out of the gate after long layoffs. The second big question is team health. Does Jamie Dixon play Fields, and how much does he play? By not playing him, Pitt's offense changes completely. If Fields does sit, is Ashton Gibbs ready to step in and run the point, or does Wanamaker slide over? If Fields plays, is he risking himself aggravating his groin even more, and if he does that and Pitt wins, is he making things worse for two days later? Those are the biggest questions that need to be answered on Friday afternoon. The rest is in good hands.

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