Sunday, March 15, 2009

Breaking Down Pitt's Region

I know it wasn't really publicized much, but turns out that today was selection Sunday. Who knew? I really wish CBS or ESPN would have mentioned this at some point in their coverage of the conference tournaments in the last week.

In case you missed it, our beloved Pitt Panthers received the first ever number 1 seed in school history and will be playing the East Region, with their first two games being in Dayton and would then play their regional round in Boston should they advance that far.

In looking through the Panthers' region, it seems to me that they are playing in what is quite possibly the most stacked region of all four. The bottom half of the bracket (the half that Pitt couldn't match up with until the Elite Eight) looks especially deep to me. So with that in mind I thought I'd break down the opposing 10 squads we are most likely to see at some point in the East region.

2 Duke
The Stars: 6'8 F Kyle Singler, 6'4 G Gerald Henderson, 6'5 G Jon Scheyer
Strength: As they often have been in recent years, the Dukies like to stretch the offensive zone by hitting the long-rangers. If they get hot in a given game they can beat anybody at any time.
Weakness: They have very little in the way of interior talent. Singler is versatile enough to be effective both inside and out, but other than that most of their talent comes from the guard play.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Sam Young vs. Kyle Singler. The Dukes have more scoring capability among the guards and the Panthers definitely more on the interior. The play of their two wingmen will be a key and there are some definite similarities between the two, with the exception that Duke fans would rather Singler play more on the perimeter and yet he continues to try to play inside, and Pitt fans would rather Sam I Am play more inside and yet he continues to play more on the outside.

3 Villanova
The Stars: 6'8 F Dante Cunningham, 6'2 G Scottie Reynolds, 6'5 Reggie Redding
Strength: The Wildcats can score in absolute bunches with a perimeter offense that actually has a bit of similarity to Duke. They try to get their 3-point mojo going early on, and if they do, look out. Their transition game will also bury teams quite often.
Weakness: As they always are under Jay Wright, the Wildcats are an undersized team that plays as many as 4 guards at time. While this has its benefits, it also can be a disaster against a physical team like Pitt if Blair and Young stay out of foul trouble and can start pouring in buckets.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Scottie Reynolds vs. Levance Fields. These two are something of opposites from the top of the key. Reynolds loves to put up shots and is typically the focal point of the Villanova offense, especially if he gets going early. Fields is the prototypical team-first point man and is one of the best caretakers in the country.

4 Xavier
The Stars: 6'6 F B.J. Raymond, 6'8 F Derrick Brown, 6'6 G C.J. Anderson
Strength: The Musketeers have a good defensive scheme that has kept them in most games this season and is predicated on excellent work on the defensive glass.
Weakness: The Musketeers get themselves in trouble. They get called for 2 more fouls a game than foul-happy Pitt does (18.6 per game!) and they turn the ball over too much.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: B.J. Raymond vs. Sam Young. Raymond is a very good all-around player. He is not as physical as Young, but can stretch the court as well as Sammy and is a dangerous threat from beyond the arc.

5 Florida State
The Stars: G Toney Douglas, G Derwin Kitchen, F Uche Echefu
Stregth: Toney Douglas. Plain and simple. He is one of the most dynamic scorers in college basketball and he can go for 30 at any point in time and carry his team to victory.
Weakness: Beyound Douglas there is VERY little to get excited about. They are basically a bunch of role players. If Douglas is contained the Noles are shot.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Jermaine Dixon vs. Toney Douglas. Dixon is a superb lockdown defender on the perimeter, and Pitt will need every ounce of his defensive ability to shut down Douglas. I'd also expect Brad Wanamaker to get minutes at the 3 to help out on Douglas and have Sam Young shift to the 4 for a while.

The Stars: 6'0 G Darren Collison, 6'5 G Josh Shipp, 6'9 F Alfred Aboya
Strength: The Bruins are a team with quite a bit of depth and some of the younger players should turn out to be very good players, even if they aren't necessarily there yet. On talent alone, the Bruins stack up well against most teams.
Weakness: The Bruins are not a physical team and rely mainly on their guards and wingmen on both offense and defense. Even their bigger players are not your traditional physical interior types. They struggle to control rebounds because of this and playing a physical team could be a nightmare for them.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: DeJuan Blair vs. the Refs. The only thing that could stop Blair and the Panthers from crushing Jamie Dixon's mentor is if Blair gets in foul trouble. The Bruins defenders won't be able to stop Blair on their own.

8 Oklahoma State
The Stars: 6'6 G James Anderson, 5'11 G Byron Eaton, 6'5 F Obi Muonelo
Strength: OSU is a pretty talented squad that has underachieved for much of the season. That said, that talent can pop up at anytime and enable them to hang with more highly thought of squads.
Weakness: The Cowboys defense has been the cause of much of their headaches this season. They have enabled a number of opponents to get hot and go off on them this season with little adjustments made to take those players out of the game.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Byron Eaton vs. Levance Fields. For the most part Pitt has a clear advantage over Oklahoma State. Especially on the interior. However, Pitt has their struggles if Levance Fields isn't on his game, and with a quality opponent like Byron Eaton, that could certainly be the case.

9 Tennessee
The Stars: 6'7 F Tyler Smith, 6'9 F Wayne Chism, 6'7 G J.P. Prince
Strength: The Vols have one of the tallest teams in the entire country. They run out several players 6'7 or taller and that can cause serious problems for slightly undersized teams. Even their depth players have size.
Weakness: Quicker teams can give the Vols serious problems, especially ones with playmaking guards.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Wayne Chism vs. DeJuan Blair. Chism has a bit of Blair's inside presence and combines it with some extra range in his game. Chism is an effective rebounder and solid at putting shots back up and also can extend his game all the way to the 3-point range.

12 Wisconsin
The Stars: 6'7 F Marcus Landry, 6'0 G Trevon Hughes, 6'2 G Jason Bohannon
Strength: The Badgers play the same way the past dozen Badger teams have played. They control the ball, milk their possessions for good shots and play excellent defense.
Weakness: More athletic teams can give them serious issues. They play completely within their own system at basically all times. If teams start running and forcing the ball up and down on them, the Badgers are taken out of their element and could have definite difficulty responding.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Marcus Landry vs. Sam Young. Landry is the Badgers main weapon, and is as solid defensively as he is offensively. He would be among the toughest challenges that Young has had to face all season.

13 Portland State
The Stars: 5'6 G Jeremiah Dominguez, 6'7 F Phil Nelson, 6'2 G Andre Murray
Strength: In typical small-school fashion, the Vikings are a deadly 3-point shooting team and will rely almost entirely on that in their upset bids in this tournament. They averaged nearly 309 treys on the season, putting them 3rd in D-I.
Weakness: Predictably, they also have trouble when they are taken out of their element on the perimeter or when teams attack them on offense on the interior where the Vikings have very little in the way of defense.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Levance Fields vs. Jeremiah Dominguez. Dominguez is the team's top 3-point threat, but despite being just 5'6 and handling the ball, he plays much more like a 2 guard. He is a polar opposite of Fields, often careless with the ball and quick to jack up a three. They dynamic between the two would be interesting to watch.

16 East Tennessee State
The Stars: 6'4 F Kevin Tiggs, 6'1 G Courtney Pigram, 6'6 G Mike Smith
Strength: The Bucs are a 3-man team if there ever was one. They don't rely much on the 3-ball, unusual for a small-school upstart, but all three of the aforementioned stars are legit scoring threats and any could go off if the others aren't picking up the slack.
Weakness: Besides the obvious depth issues, the Bucs are going to have issues with big, physical teams inside. Their taller players are too thin to bang around and their thicker players are under 6'5.
Key Matchup if they play Pitt: Kevin Tiggs vs. Pitt's Wing Defenders. I think a few different guys will switch around on Tiggs. Sam Young figures to get the first crack because Tiggs can bang inside a little bit, but Sam isn't a terrific defender and Tiggs is a good scorer. The ideal matchup with this guy might be Brad Wanamaker or Gil Brown, so both could see big minutes early in the game before Pitt inevitably pulls away.


Sam said...

What do you think? Who is the biggest challenger to Pitt? You don't seem too worried, but FSU seems like a tough out to me with Douglas. they had a hell of a run in the ACC.
As for the other half of the bracket I'm more afraid of Nova than Duke in all honesty even though we beat Nova. Duke is soft.

Anonymous said...

Duke is soft?? How so. They easily beat FSU yesterday at their own game. If Duke plays a strong inside team such as Pitt, they are not as weak as the analysis states. Look how Duke neutralized FSU's inside game. This Duke team is much better than the last few teams. Scheyer, Elliot Williams, Nolan Smith,and Henderson can all play good defense. Zoubek as he showed yesterday is capable of good defensive games. Duke is soft Sam?