After a week off, Pitt is back in action on Saturday against the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Truth be told, Cincinnati wasn't expected to do much this year with the losses of Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson. But the Bearcats raced out to a 15-0 start and even though they've struggled a bit in Big East play, they have a pretty good chance at reaching the NCAA Tournament.
Cincinnati hasn't played an extremely difficult non-conference season, but wins over solid teams in Xavier, Oklahoma, and Dayton will definitely help their chances. And with five conference wins, 2-3 more should get them into the Big Dance.
Those wins are nice, but Cincinnati is still looking for that first big win of the season:
"You need those signature wins to get in," Gates said. "I think we still need to go out and get one."
While that win could come Saturday (as Notre Dame proved Pitt can indeed be beaten at home), the Bearcats will have their hands full with Pitt. The Panthers are surely still disappointed in their last home game, even though it was nearly two weeks ago, and after a week off, head coach Jamie Dixon has likely had the Panthers working hard to avoid another letdown.
Vaughn and Stephenson are gone, but Pitt will still need to contend with Yancey Gates, who had a monster performance against Pitt last year (16 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks, and two steals). Gates is not a superstar, but as he proved last year, he's more than capable of posting a big game.
On Pitt's side, the team's depth could be challenged a bit if the injured Dante Taylor isn't able to go. Taylor had been playing with sore knees and he aggravated the injury when he bumped knees with a teammate in practice. He hasn't practiced fully this week and he is questionable heading into the game. If Taylor cannot play, look for reserve power forward Talib Zanna to get more minutes.