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2011 NCAA Tournament: Pitt Vs. Butler - Panthers On Cusp of Sweet 16

Pitt is one game from reaching the Sweet 16, but that's far from the goal for the team obviously. Anything less than at least a Final Four berth would be a disappointment.

The Panthers have had their opening game tune-up and will now see some stiff challenges along the way starting with a Butler team that went to the NCAA championship game last year. The only difference is, well, this isn't exactly the same team as star player Gordon Hayward is now in the NBA.

Butler has already gotten some experience facing good rebounding teams taking on Old Dominion in their opening game. They handled them extremely well to say the least, keeping them more than ten boards below their season average. Pitt needs to make sure it doesn't allow that to happen in their game tonight and the best way to do that is to come out aggressive and hungry, beating Butler to every loose ball and boxing sticking to the fundamentals such as boxing out.

Butler definitely isn't sneaking up on Pitt, so there's no reason to even think about overlooking the Bulldogs. They have the Panthers' full attention:

"When you look at Butler, you definitely have to respect them a little bit more," Pittsburgh forward Gilbert Brown said Friday.

The big, bad Panthers know who the nation will be rooting for when the teams meet Saturday night.

"Knowing the history of their school, they're basically America's team now," Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker said.

The Panthers figure almost everyone will be pulling for the Bulldogs, except perhaps for those fans who have Pittsburgh advancing to the Final Four in their bracket.

"I think everyone wants to the see the upset," Panthers center Gary McGhee said. "We just want to come out there and play our game. We know what we have to do."

Defense is Pitt's other key. The Panthers were aggressive against UNC-Asheville in Thursday's game and really forced them into tough shots, holding them to under 31% from the field. Nasir Robinson is going to be a key guarding Butler forward Matt Howard, the team's leading scorer. At 6'8, Matt Howard plays both inside and outside and is a load for any defender.

Still, Pitt is clearly the better team and Butler failed in earlier attempts this year to beat some pretty good teams such as Duke, Louisville, and Xavier.

Pitt is, of course, capable of losing this game. But if they play their game, the team should be moving on to next weekend.

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