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Pitt Vs. Notre Dame: Panthers Begin Big East Play With Road Test Against Irish

Pitt takes on Notre Dame on Tuesday after a disappointing loss to unranked Wagner last week that nearly knocked the Panthers out of the Top 25 polls.

The Panthers enter the game ranked No. 22 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls and will need to bounce back in a big way to win their first Big East game of the season. Notre Dame isn't expected to contend for the conference title this season, but the team has given Pitt in trouble over the past few seasons, and with Pitt on the road, a win is far from a guarantee.

The big storyline for the Panthers will be the availability of starting point guard Tray Woodall. The team has been without him for nearly a month after he suffered an injury in the annual City Game against Duquesne. Pitt hasn't been the same team without him, and the player who has been affected the most is the team's star, Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs, having to handle part of the point guard duties, hasn't been able to find his shot this season. With Woodall's injury, his shooting has been even worse. Gibbs is averaging a team high 17.7 points per game, but is only shooting 38 percent from the field this season. Over the past five games, his numbers have been even worse. He's averaging under 15 points per game and is making less than 36 percent of his shots.

The Irish are only 8-5 on the season, but have played a considerably tougher schedule than the Panthers. While Pitt has yet to play a ranked opponent, Notre Dame has faced three - Missouri, Indiana, and Gonzaga. The Irish have also played a few other respectable non-conference foes in Maryland and Georgia. Notre Dame hasn't been able to defeat any of those teams, though, and the jury is still out on just how good the team is. Without senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who's out for the season due to an ACL tear, Notre Dame is a team still very much trying to find its identity.

Pitt can win this game, but their chances will be much better if Woodall is able to suit up.

For more on the game, check out SB Nation's Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.

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