Pitt will kick off their postseason with a first-round game against St. John’s in the Big East Tournament on Tuesday. In the Red Storm, they’ll face a familiar foe as the two teams squared off less than a week ago. Pitt came away with a lopsided win in that one, but the Panthers played one of their best games of the year and it was a home contest.
At first glance, Pitt appears to be in the driver's seat. They’re a more veteran team and have much more experience playing in the Big East Tournament than the freshman-dominated team of St. John’s. Eight of the Red Storm’s 11 players are freshmen and most of the team will be playing their first-ever Big East Tournament game.
All of that said, while Pitt has proved they can beat St. John’s, there are some potential pitfalls.
The game is at Madison Square Garden. While the Panthers are familiar with that site, St. John’s is even more so, having played home contests there. As well as Pitt is used to the court and the feel of the arena, the Red Storm should feel more comfortable there.
In addition, with the game in New York, St. John’s could have a significant home-court advantage when it comes to the fans. Pitt fans have always traveled well there, but it’s hard to believe they’ll have more fans than the Red Storm will.
And with a losing record, the Red Storm have virtually no chance to play in a postseason tournament. As lackluster as the NIT may seem, Pitt could be playing there with a win against St. John’s. You can also be sure that, however unlikely it may be, Pitt is still hoping to win an NCAA Tournament berth by winning five games in a row. The Panthers have more to play for and because of that, should feel a bit more pressure. Add it all up and the Red Storm will come out with nothing to lose while Pitt might be a bit tight – especially if shots don’t fall early.
I don’t expect Pitt to lose this game, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that this season. The Panthers should come out with a win, but with the way the season has gone, there are no guarantees.
For more on Pitt basketball and the game, check out SB Nation blog, Cardiac Hill.