Friday, March 02, 2007

BIG EAST GAME PREVIEW: Pittsburgh @ Marquette

March 3, 2007

The highlight of the weekend will cap off the action on Saturday night as Pittsburgh meets Marquette. After thier first meeting, which Dominic James won for Marquette with two free throws with 0.00:9 left on the clock, this game was widely expected to be for the regular season Big East Championship. However, with Marquette coming in losing four of their last five, that did not materialize. It still has championship ramifications for Pitt because if they are able to get the road win, they will at least share the title with Georgetown.

It is not going to be an easy trip for Pittsburgh. The Bradley Center is a very enthusiastic home court and expect the building to be in rare form on Saturday. ESPN College Gameday will be broadcasting all day from the Bradley Center and will wrap-up with the nationally televised game. Marquette is also welcoming back their 1977 NCAA Championship team and a few members expected to attend have not been back in some time. Also, the Golden Eagles have had a week off to reflect on their goals and shore things up internally after losing four of five...expect a BIG effort from Marquette.

On top of the great environment awaiting Pittsburgh, so is a tough match-up. Marquette has a three-guard line-up that gives the Panthers fits because they have tremendous quickness, athletic ability and Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews have excellent size. Dominic James has been struggling of late, but he is too good of a player to keep down for too long.

Pittsburgh has been in tough environments and they seem to be a team that does not rattle easily, so the way they lost at Georgetown last weekend was somewhat surprising as the Panthers turned it over and made poor plays down the stretch and saw their offense tank after taking an 8 point lead in the last 10 minutes against the Hoyas. last year these two met in a similar environment late in the season and marquette held off the Panthers charge late and came up with the win. Pittsburgh will look to establish Aaron Gray early inside, like in their first meeting, but they will have to find ways to keep him involved as the stopped going to him for long stretches in the first meeting. Gray's ankle seems to be healing well, but their other two key frontcourt contributors, Levon Kendall and Sam Young, are battling nagging injuries that could have them limited on Saturday night. In the first game, Marquette got big points from Dan Fitzgerald at the '4' position and Pittsburgh did not, if the Panthers' forwards are limited again, this is a big advantage for the Golden Eagles.

Look for a big early effort from Marquette, boosted by a charged up crowd. I think Pittsburgh settles in and takes the crowd out of it, but they spend a long time climbing back into the game and comes up just short in a good game played by two very good teams.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Marquette 65 Pittsburgh 64

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