Pitt wasn't expecting to get the test they got from Rider over the weekend, but on Wednesday, they could be facing another one from Long Beach State.
The 49ers were nearly an NCAA tournament team last year and won 22 games before heading to the NIT. Along the way, Long Beach State beat Iowa and fell by only five to North Carolina on the road. They also faced Clemson, Arizona State, and a 30-win Utah State team, so they aren't likely to be rattled by playing the Pete this season. And talk about tough schedules - in addition to Pitt, the 49ers will square off against North Carolina, Louisville, Kansas, and Xavier this year ... all top 15 squads.
Long Beach State is led by 5-foot-10 dynamo Casper Ware, who averaged just over 17 points per game last year. And in the 49ers' opener against Idaho this season, he dropped 20 on the Vandals.
One area Pitt should have an advantage is down low. Long Beach State has no regular taller than 6-foot-8 and not much depth as far as big men go. Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna, and Khem Birch (all of whom are 6-foot-9 or taller) could wear them down as the game goes on. There's also the 6-foot-11 Malcolm Gilbert, who could play after missing the first two games with a fractured hand.
Speaking of Birch, he's off to a bit of a slow start. Through two games, he's only averaged two points and three rebounds per contest. Still, look for him to make a bigger impact as the season goes on and he gets more comfortable with the offense.
A main storyline to follow this season will continue to be the offensive development of Tray Woodall. Woodall has been one of the team's better players so far this season, but he's unlikely to keep this scoring pace up. But if he's able to even play moderately well, that would give Pitt one of the best backcourts in the country with All-American candidate Ashton Gibbs playing shooting guard.
Playing at home, the Panthers are nearly unbeatable so it's difficult to see them losing this game. But as Sunday's game against Rider proved, Pitt is capable of being tested by mid-major teams.