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Albany Vs. Pitt: Panthers Kick Off 2011-12 Season Against Great Danes

With the football team struggling so much, it's even easier to look forward to basketball season getting underway. Pitt will kick things off with a contest against Albany on Friday night at The Pete.

The Panthers come into the game heavy favorites and Albany isn't likely to threaten Pitt in this one. The Great Danes were 16-16 last season, but return four starters.

Pitt should have Nasir Robinson in the lineup after coming back from his knee injury. Robinson was expected to be out for three to four weeks, but surprised everyone a bit by coming back a little earlier and playing in the team's last preseason game on Monday against Kentucky Wesleyan. However, just as they're getting Nas back, the team will be without the services of sophomore small forward, J.J. Moore. Moore was suspended for one game for his participation in an unauthorized summer league game.

Moore's suspension likely means that Lamar Patterson will get the start for the Panthers. Patterson and Moore were in a battle for the starting spot at small forward and after Moore got the nod in the game against Kentucky Wesleyan, it appeared he had the inside track. With Robinson back, the rest of the starting lineup should consist of guards Ashton Gibbs and Tray Woodall and center Dante Taylor. This will be kind of a make or break year for Taylor, who is a junior. Highly touted coming out of high school, he hasn't quite lived up to expectations. As a starter this season, Taylor will get every opportunity to shine. But if he falters, he could see his time decrease with freshmen Khem Birch and Malcolm Gilbert competing for minutes.

Albany lost its leading scorer from last season in Tim Ambrose, but Pitt will need to contend with guard Logan Aronhalt. Aronhalt averaged nearly 15 points per game last season and could be the Great Danes' best player. Albany played in a slew of tight games this year and should be a bit more experienced.

Albany was routed last season in its two big contests against Georgia Tech and Xavier. They may keep things close for a bit, but Pitt should have little trouble in this game.

For more on the game and Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.

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