Pitt faces Oklahoma State on Saturday in the Carquest Auto Parts Basketball Classic in Madison Square Garden. The game is going to be on a neutral court, but it's hard to imagine the Panthers not having a home-court advantage to a degree. It's in the footprint of the Big East and a much closer trip for Pitt fans than those of the Cowboys.
Home court or no home court, though, the Panthers are still the likely favorites in this one.
Oklahoma State is 6-2, but that record is probably a bit deceiving. The Cowboys dropped both of their significant non-conference games to date against Virginia Tech and Stanford and have had a hard time with other opponents. They only beat Missouri State, Tulsa, and Texas-San Antonio by a combined 13 points and UTSA took them to overtime.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have been playing well even despite the loss of starting guard Tray Woodall and have been playing better than Oklahoma State - especially lately. Pitt had a school record 60 rebounds against VMI in their last game and since an early loss to Long Beach State, have rattled off six straight wins.
The Cowboys are led, at least in part, by freshman Le'Bryan Nash. Nash, though, isn't even a starter, even though he's the team's leading scorer. He's had his ups and downs this season, but is perhaps the most talented player on Oklahoma State's roster.
Oklahoma State doesn't do a good job at sharing the basketball. They average less than 11 assists, which ranks them near the bottom in all of college basketball. Conversely, Pitt is one of the best at that, ranking fourth in the nation averaging nearly 20 assists per game.
The good news for Pitt is that if they win this game, the rest of the non-conference schedule should be a breeze and the Panthers can escape with only the Long Beach State loss. Pitt's remaining non-con games are against Wagner, St. Francis, and South Carolina State. Those teams are a combined 13-14 and while Wagner is respectable, Pitt should be able to come away with a victory at home.