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Pitt Vs. Tennessee: Panthers Battle Volunteers In Big East/SEC Challenge

Pitt faces the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday in a matchup of top 15-ranked teams. The Panthers enter the game No. 3 in both polls, while Tennessee is No. 11 in the AP Poll and No. 13 in the ESPN/USA Today. The contest is part of the Big East/SEC Challenge and is the only matchup of ranked teams this weekend. The Pitt-Tennessee game is the second in a double header at the new Consol Energy Center. Rutgers and Auburn will kick things off in the opener.

This is the first season in which Pitt has participated in the event. Since there are only a small handful of games each year, not every team plays in the event.

Both schools have faced some challenging teams this year and have come out undefeated. Pitt holds victories against Maryland and Texas, while Tennessee has beaten a top ten Villanova team.

Pitt's frontcourt will have its hands full with talented freshman forward, 6-foot-8 Tobias Harris. Harris is one of the nation's top players and may very well be Tennessee's best player, averaging 16.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. But it's not just his inside game Pitt needs to be worried about - Harris is shooting more than 50% from the field and an astonishing 75% from three-point range this season.

Tennessee could have taken an easier path, but instead chose to play the Panthers in what will amount to a road game:

"We had the opportunity to play Marquette in Nashville. And there weren't a lot of volunteers to go up there to Pittsburgh and play Pittsburgh without a return game," Pearl said. "So as to put myself in good stead with our commissioner (Mike Slive), I volunteered the game. So we'll see how it works out."

The Vols are more than capable of beating Pitt, even on the road and unlike most teams the Panthers have faced, have enough rebounding to get the job done. Pitt ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding, but Tennessee isn't far behind at No. 14.

Still, in virtually a road game and with the Panthers' depth, I expect Pitt to win a close one on Saturday.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.