Our Latest Posts

28 March 2009

Preview: Pitt vs Villanova

Scottie Reynolds vs. Levance Fields

There are two players in the Big East that can make a 5-of-15 shooting performance look good: one is Sam Young, and the other is Reynolds. That's what he shot from the field against Duke, and he still finished with 16 points. Reynolds, along with Reggie Redding and Shane Clark, were instrumental in shutting down Duke's offense. As Reynolds has been shaking off a case of the flu over the last few weeks, he has been shooting at less than 33 percent over the last four games. Fields is coming off another dramatic play. You can talk about him being a floor general, and everything that falls into that category, including his unmatched play as a passer. We all know the numbers. When push comes to shove, Levance Fields is the guy who wants the ball in his hands, and he proved that on Thursday night. He knocked down a go-ahead three-pointer against Xavier, and he came up with a steal on the ensuing possession that clinched the win. Big players come up in big games like that. With his injury out of the way, and his confidence increasing as the Xavier game went on, Fields is going to pick up where he left off on Thursday. The pressure is off.

Edge: Pitt

Reggie Redding vs. Jermaine Dixon

Redding came up with 11 points and nine rebounds in the win over Duke. The nine rebounds can be attributed to the combined 9-of-45 (20%) three-point shooting between the Wildcats and Blue Devils. Even though there were a lot of long rebounds, still, a guard that can rebound as well as Redding, is impressive. Dixon is still not getting in a rhythm, however he did come up with a couple big layups against Xavier. Still okay, but to think what this Pitt team could do if he was back in his midseason form. He has shot 5-of-21 in postseason play, and needs to get in a rhythm. Redding has been quite the opposite, as he has been on a roll - not just in the tournament, but throughout the second half of the season. Redding is doubling his season scoring average, with 14 points a game in the last two tournament games. Redding is a three-point threat - not a multiple three-point threat, but enough cause for concern.

Edge: Villanova

Shane Clark vs. Sam Young

Interestingly, Clark made his first start at the three after Pitt's loss at Villanova. Since then, the Wildcats are 13-3. Clark is more of a defensive threat, because of his height. For Young, it's a favorable matchup because he should be able to use his athleticism and pick his spots. Clark is prone to foul trouble, and has fouled out of two of the last six games, including the win over Duke. Still, in a 23-point win over Duke, he chipped in seven points and grabbed five rebounds. Not a dominant performance, but his defense on the perimeter was also a big factor in Duke's abysmal shooting performance. It's not too much to expect Young to outscore Clark…the real question is how well Clark can defend Young. If he does, the Panthers could be in trouble. If Young has another big game, this gives the Panthers a significant edge.

Edge: Pitt

Dwayne Anderson vs. Tyrell Biggs

Anderson plays the four the way Sam Young has played it in his career - a smaller, but more athletic type of a four. The last time these two teams played, Anderson matched up with Young at the three. The very next game, he moved down to the four, and has averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds since making the switch. Though he still grabbed seven rebounds in the win against Duke, Anderson was one of three Wildcats who got into foul trouble. Biggs had an okay game against Xavier - he didn't hurt the Panthers, but he didn't exactly help them either. Pitt has not needed the scoring from Biggs. It has three prime-time players in Fields, Blair and Young to take care of the scoring. If there were ever a time for Dixon and Biggs to get a 10-point game, this would be the time to do it. I'm sure for this game, much like the other games in this tournament, any extra rebounds Biggs can help with is a bonus. Biggs had to defend both Derrick Brown and C.J. Anderson on Thursday, and they both outrebounded him. Pitt is going to need significant help from Biggs on the boards against Villanova.

Edge: Villanova

Dante Cunningham vs. DeJuan Blair

This matchup is not for the faint at heart. Cunningham poses one of the toughest matchups Blair has seen all season. He came up big with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Duke. The move of Dwayne Anderson down low has helped Cunningham immensely. He can stay in the low post and play inside, while Anderson has the chance to be a versatile player from anywhere, offensively or defensively. One player who has been consistent for Pitt through this tournament, has been DeJuan Blair. He has finished with a double-double in each game of this tournament - not the typical numbers for your average sophomore, but Blair has proved more than once that he's not your typical sophomore. Blair is averaging 15.7 points and 15 rebounds in three tournament games this year. This matchup is comparable to Blair vs. Thabeet. Despite Cunningham getting in foul trouble, and having his worst shooting performance of his last five games, both players will excel in this matchup. Blair may have had a more physical matchup from Xavier, heading into this game, which may give him a slight edge.

Edge: Pitt

Depth: Villanova Bench vs. Pitt Bench

Fisher was arguably the top bench player in the Big East this past season, and had been taking is game to a new level in recent weeks. Fisher is an excellent free throw shooter, and pretty solid from three-point range, before he went 0-for-3 from three-point range against Duke, including 0-for-6 from the field. It still didn't matter. Stokes is another big-time scorer off the bench at guard, averaging around nine points a game. Both can be threats on the perimeter, but in a similar fashion of Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs - they'll take a few good looks when they're win, but don't expect more than one or two. Antonio Pena only comes in when the starters get in foul trouble. If that's the case, expect Pitt to gain an advantage there. Those are the three bench players that get the bulk of the minutes. Frank Tchuisi appeared in 23 games this season, and somehow had more field goals than Duke's Gerald Henderson - take that for what it's worth. The x-factor is Gilbert Brown. Brown quietly had seven points and six boards in the win over Xavier. Again, with his athleticism, he might be able to fill in and get some defensive rebounds. Though Stokes and Fisher have started games this year, and play like starters, the trio of Wanamaker, Brown and Gibbs have a chance to show their versatility in this game. We know Stokes and Fisher are strictly guards. Gibbs can play either of the guard spots, Wanamaker can play the one, two or three, while Brown is going to be an athletic four in this game.

Edge: Pitt

Overall: Villanova vs Pitt

Pitt 67
Villanova 57

The question this whole time has been whether Pitt was going to show up in this tournament. It's safe to say, after a 31-18 run in the second half against Xavier, they showed up when it counted most. The Panthers are in an interesting momentum flow right now. This team is much less of a defensive team than other Dixon-coached teams of the past. This team also has more offensive firepower. Thursday, they went back to their roots a little bit. We also saw Thursday, the advantage of having a veteran point guard in Levance Fields. Take your pick of clutch Fields shots over the years—the three-pointer against Duke last year, the two three-pointers at the end of the first UConn game this year, or last night's go ahead three-pointer with less than a minute to go. All three were clutch situations, all three were against big name programs with a lot at stake. We'll assume that Fields is healthy, and even if he isn't, now that the Panthers have finally advanced to that next level they've been so often criticized. Not just Fields - Young, and even Blair, have been trained to play in a game like Saturday. For Villanova - it's mind boggling to think they won by 23, while they shot just 4-of-23 from three-point range. They made up for that with a +14 in rebounding, and a 44-18 margin in the paint. That kind of play can work either way for Pitt. The Wildcats have a rebounding specialist at the three, an athletic four, and a bruiser on the inside. With that kind of variety, there's really no excuse to not have an advantage in the Pitt. Sure, big win over Duke, but Duke is a shooting team—live by the sword, die by the sword. Remember…a little used bench player in Frank Tchuisi outscored Duke's big guy inside, Gerald Henderson. It will be much tougher to stop playmakers like Sam Young and DeJuan Blair. If Pitt's backcourt, not just Fields, gets active, Pitt will have a significant edge. Also working for Pitt - revenge. Pitt has so much pride in its Big East opponents, that even with a Final Four trip on the line, getting the Wildcats back for the loss in January - two months ago to the date - might be more on the mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment