The 2K Sports Classic officially began with Pitt's season opener against Rhode Island, but the tournament winner will be decided from the four teams that traveled to Madison Square Garden this week. We're down to the final two, Pitt and the Texas Longhorns, and the winner will be crowned the tournament champion.
This is actually one of the higher profile early-season tournaments. It's being played at Madison Square Garden, and in Pitt, Texas, and Illinois, features three ranked teams. Maryland, the fourth team, is a well respected program and a team that received top 25 votes in the polls this season.
Pitt now faces Texas (after the Longhorns' impressive overtime win against 13th-ranked Illinois) and another talented big man in 6-foot-7 Jordan Hamilton. Pitt managed to keep Maryland's Jordan Williams somewhat in check and if it can do the same to Hamilton, that should go a long way in helping the Panthers win the tournament.
Texas is ranked No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll (it's unranked in the AP Poll) and is more than a one-man show. Pitt will also have to contend with 6-foot-8 forward Tristan Thompson and 6-foot-6 forward Gary Johnson. The trio of Hamilton, Thompson, and Johnson should give PItt all it can handle in the frontcourt. The Longhorns are a good rebounding team and if Pitt starts slowly as it did against Maryland on Thursday, the team could be facing its first loss.
Pitt's frontcourt has performed well so far this season, however. Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor both had good games against Maryland, and while Gary McGhee didn't put up great numbers, he played pretty good defense, helping to hold Williams under his 20+ ppg average.
Meanwhile, Pitt will look to get its starting guards more involved on offense. Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs were held to 23 points in the Maryland game and are capable of doing more.
The difference in Friday's game could be in the benches. Texas' reserves average about 21 ppg while Pitt's have contributed about 31 ppg so far this season. Pitt is one of the deepest teams in the country and will need its bench to contribute as it has done so far.