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Pitt Vs. Villanova: Panthers Will Need 'A' Game To Beat Wildcats On Road

No, it won't take a miracle for Pitt to beat Villanova on the road today. And if you're a Pitt fan telling me that the Panthers will win, I wouldn't necessarily call you crazy. But playing its second straight game without top player Ashton Gibbs, Pitt will need to play possibly its best game of the season to win this game. Playing this game on the road will make it hard for Pitt to win, but without Gibbs, it will be that much more difficult.

To make matters worse for Pitt, Nova just dropped an excruciating last-second game to Rutgers on a four-point play earlier this week, so they should be desperate to avenge that loss.

Facing No. 10 Villanova, the Panthers are in their third game this season where both teams have been ranked in the top ten. Pitt and Villanova were voted as the top two teams in the conference by the coaches in the preseason and with the regular season winding down, that prediction just may have been right.

The Wildcats have lost five games this year, but only one has been at home - a three-point loss to Georgetown. Otherwise, their home record is flawless and they've been as dominant at home as Pitt has in the Pete. Even worse is that Pitt hasn't fared particularly well at the Pavilion recently and has lost the last six times they've played there.

For Villanova, it all starts with the guards. Their starting duo of Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes provides not only leadership (both are seniors), but scoring, as they average more than 30 points per game and are the team's two leading scorers. Unfortunately for Pitt, even if one comes out of the game, there's not much of a dropoff in production as guard Maalik Wayns is the Wildcats' third leading scorer, averaging nearly 14 points off the bench. Pitt would have been hard-pressed to match that kind of production with Gibbs, and without him, it will be even tougher.

For Pitt to win this game, they'll again need production from Travon Woodall, who will be starting for Gibbs. Woodall scored some key points late in Pitt's win over West Virginia this week, but it would be nice if he could get off to a better start this time around - he was 1-6 from the field in the first half of that game.

But it obviously doesn't just come down to Woodall. Pitt saw him, Gary McGhee, and Nasir Robinson all score more than usual in that West Virginia win. Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown also hovered right around their average. The Panthers will need guys to step in and help fill the production void caused by Gibbs' absence. The good news is that different guys have been stepping up all season long. An astonishing seven players (Gibbs, Wanamaker, Robinson, McGhee, Brown, J.J. Moore, and Talib Zanna) have led the team in scoring in different games throughout the season. Pitt is surely the underdog in this game, but their depth is one reason they could come out on top on Saturday.

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