For Pitt and UConn, the 2011-12 regular season will be one to forget. It's been so disappointing, in fact, that both teams enter the matchup unranked, and according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that's the first time that's happened in 15 years.
Neither team is in very good shape right now, but the Huskies probably have a bit more to play for than the Panthers. UConn sits at 17-12 and is in a slightly better position to get into the NCAA Tournament than Pitt if they can win on Saturday. Still, the Huskies' chances to get into the Big Dance aren't all that great and both teams could be headed for the NIT.
If, as expected, neither team gets into the NCAAs, they'll likely look back on close losses. Pitt has dropped five games this season by five points or less. The Huskies' losses have been even more agonizing, as they've lost five by three points or less. Both programs could be bound for the NCAAs with just a few more made shots, so even though they're struggling this year, these are still two decent teams.
For Pitt to have a chance on the road, they'll need another good game from Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs had 19 points in the Panthers' blowout of St. John's on Wednesday, and if he can put up a similar effort, Pitt should have a chance. Another key will be the play from Pitt's bench. J.J. Moore, in particular, has been red hot for the Panthers. He's averaged just over 15 points over his last four games - nearly 10 points higher than his season average.
On defense, it all starts with trying to shut down UConn star Jeremy Lamb. Lamb averages nearly 18 points a game and is one of the top players in the Big East. Equally as important, though, is Pitt's ability to win the battle in the frontcourt and shut down freshman Andre Drummond. Drummond enters averaging nearly a double-double on the season, with more than 10 points and almost eight rebounds a game. Junior Dante Taylor had a big game against the Red Storm on Wednesday and the Panthers will need him to stay aggressive against the athletic Drummond, who is one of the conference's best rebounders.
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