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05 January 2008

'Cats face Pitt in Big East home opener

posted by NovaFan09
1/05/2008 10:31:00 AM

#16 Villanova Wildcats (10-2, 0-1 BE) vs.
#13 Pittsburgh Panthers (12-1, 0-0 BE)

Date: Sunday, January 6, 2008
Location: The Pavilion (Villanova, PA)
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST
Television: WPHL (Greater Philadelphia region only)

Pittsburgh Coverage: Pitt Blather || Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Panthers, regarded as one of the nation's top teams and predicted by many to make a deep tournament run this year, visit Villanova's campus for a highly anticipated matchup between two Big East powerhouses.

Like many teams across the country and especially in the Big East, injuries have plagued the Panthers as of late, threatening to ruin their plans for a deep postseason run. Pitt opened the season 11-0, which included an instant classic win over Duke in overtime at Madison Square Garden, 65-64. Since then, 6'6" senior forward and outright team leader Mike Cook was lost for the season with a knee injury. In addition, Junior point guard Levance Fields, who sent Duke home with his last second 3-pointer, broke his left foot in an 80-55 Dayton loss, sidelining him for 8-12 weeks.

Because of the injuries, coach Jamie Dixon has been forced to juggle his lineup. Hot shooting senior Ronald Ramon has slid into the starting point position, replacing Fields. Role player Keith Benjamin has found significant minutes at shooting guard, scoring 20 points en route to defeating Lafayette. Even freshman Gilbert Brown and junior Ty Biggs have helped at Cook's old forward position.

While the Panthers may not have the firepower they once had at the beginning of the season, Pitt clearly has enough depth at these positions to keep them competitive in the conference. This team is much different than the one 'Nova has faced in the past, with Aaron Gray now on the Chicago Bulls. Still, the Drummond-less frontcourt will have a tough time against Sam Young (17.6ppg, 7.3rpm) and DeJuan Blair (11.6, 9.2), in addition to Biggs. Perhaps Jay Wright may start another big in Antonio Pena to help contend on the glass. I expect the 'Nova guards to contend well and bounce back against Pitt's, playing much better as a unit than against DePaul. An interesting subplot will be to see how the players react versus a well rested opponent after the tough road loss in Illinois.

Keys to the Game

Defense, Defense, Defense This 'key' for Villanova will remain at the top of the list until the Wildcats can prove that they are able to stop opponents from scoring at will. The freshmen must realize that unlike high school, where defense is primarily man-to-man, the college game and Jay Wright's defense in particular is more dependent on help and trap defense. Too many times in the DePaul game multiple defenders jumped to the ball on fastbreaks, leaving trailing Demons wide open. There is no doubt the 'Cats can create havoc with their pesky guards. However, if 'Nova fails to correct its streaky defensive play it could be another long night for 'Nova Nation.

Play a full 40 minutes As the announcers noted, Villanova came out flat at the beginning of the DePaul game. In what looked like an effort to make up for the early lack of intensity, 'Nova changed gears and lost focus, committing turnovers and forcing shots. The 'Cats must be consistent in minutes 1 through 40 and show the same effort on both ends of the court.

In a span of eight possessions against DePaul, 'Nova forced six missed shots and turned the ball over two times, resulting in zero points. Not only were there numerous travel calls on players beginning their dribble, but the usually effective passing of the guards was erratic and at times too errant for bigger players to receive on the box. The offense needs to tighten up their passing and execution against Pitt. I'm not saying that they have to abandon their transition game completely, but there is a distinct difference between out of control and quick play. Pitt, allowing only 62 ppg, is an experienced defensive team that Villanova will have to find a way to penetrate.


Shane Clark Nowhere to be found in the DePaul game, as he managed only 4 points in 26 minutes, Clark has been ineffective as of late. Shane started the season strong, leading the team in points scored in several early-season games. For this team to be effective Clark must be more assertive on offense and not pass up uncontested threes on the wing or 15 foot jumpers from the elbows.

Corey Stokes/Dwayne Anderson To be honest, I was happy to see Anderson's hustle and determination not go unnoticed by the coaching staff, who granted him a starting spot in the lineup. Unfortunately, his limited playing time led for him to commit too many fouls in limited action. Stokes, who has the skills, needs confidence to be effective at the collegiate level. Unfortunately, the first 11 games of the season, not conference play, is the place to build confidence. Here is to hoping that one of these players steps up and makes some contributions.

Pavilion Crowd Because of winter break, the full student body will not be in attendance for this game. It is important that 'Nova win this game, not only because of its NCAA tournament seeding implications, but because the 'Cats cannot afford to fall to 0-2 in the Big East. The student section in particular needs to act as a sixth man and garner support for the starting five. In addition, a few "On Your Feet" chants from the students will ensure the rest of the paying crowd will get into the game as well.

As always, send in your predictions and comments for the game vs. Pitt for a chance to have your name mentioned in an upcoming post.

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At 10:04 AM, January 05, 2008, Anonymous SHAWNY MACATTAK!!! said...

Pitt 77
Nova 72

At 1:08 PM, January 05, 2008, Blogger Matt said...

Villanova 70
Pitt 66

the injuries on Pitt's side will just barely be too much for them to overcome

At 1:56 PM, January 05, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of noise at the Pavillion.... These kids need to get pumped up!!!

At 2:45 PM, January 05, 2008, Anonymous Gregg said...

Villanova 65
Pitt 62

Yes, the crowd needs to come up big, especially in game that will probably be close all the way.

At 4:00 PM, January 05, 2008, Anonymous Ryan said...

Villanova 75
Pitt 65

At 6:47 PM, January 05, 2008, Anonymous Joey said...

if we can somehow find a way to handle Blair inside: Nova - 68, Pitt - 60. If not...I don't wanna know.

At 9:52 PM, January 05, 2008, Anonymous david said...

uh. anyway to watch this in ny?

oh pitt 72 nova 68

At 9:39 AM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous JA said...

Nova 68
Pitt 66

As an alumnus that has tickets to all the wachovia center games, and once in a while tickets to a pavilion game, I absolutely agree the non-student fans are way too passive during the game. Not that they need to stand the entire game, but some more noise during key possessions and standing up a few times would be great. Unfortunately, it's not going to happen by itself.

The student section HAS to call us out. Chant "on your feet" a few times and hopefully we can bring more energy to the pavilion today and every other game.

As a recent student I remember standing in the student section for every home game being pissed at everyone else for not helping the team out on key possessions with their lack of energy. Now that I'm in those other seats I want to make noise and stand up, but feel bad about blocking the 2 kids & who knows who else sitting behind me. The only way around it is for the students to come up with some cheers and call out the rest of the crowd. Trust me, most of us want to join in you guys just have to get it started.

At 9:56 AM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Gregg said...

Yeah, the student section always does their job, but during the three games that I've been to thus far you could hear a pin drop anywhere else. You would be amazed at the effect that it would make if the student section could get the rest of the place fired up.

At 10:18 AM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Michael said...

Well Gregg the croud would be nice but thets NOT HAPPENING

At 10:19 AM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Michael said...

some lazy people do not want to attend this PITT game. I am very dissapointed in the alumni.

At 10:20 AM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous h said...

Dwels pown!!!

At 10:25 AM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Michael said...

Yeah David
It is on MSG, if you have it.

At 11:34 AM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous By-the-Sea said...

Hey - today's game is on ESPN360. Can someone please remind this left-coaster how to access (It's not directly supported through my local Comcast).

Student section - Make it loud today!!!

At 1:10 PM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Michael said...

Make it loud today? they already are, get with the program and leave the sea!!! Its 30 30 at halftime and Grant is firing up the whole stadium.

At 1:58 PM, January 06, 2008, Blogger David said...

malcolm is the big game player on this team. hands down.
if we hold on to this win, things won't be as bleak.

At 2:13 PM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Michael said...

Cats win go crazy folks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At 2:53 PM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Balls said...

so what happens in the polls now?

At 4:22 PM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous emily said...

balls, i'm wondering the same thing!

Completely unrelated to this post, i was just wondering when is Cas coming back? has there been any word on him lately? WE NEEEED HIM BACK!

At 5:07 PM, January 06, 2008, Blogger Dave said...

2nd row student section. Glorious seats, amazing game, incredible ending. What a game. That's why you show up early with your Wild Card, folks. Amazing atmosphere in the student section today, too. My voice is pretty much gone, and everybody got into the game.

At 10:33 PM, January 06, 2008, Anonymous Bill said...

I am probably the least qualified guy in the world to give coaching advice to Jay Write.... But here we go anyway;

I hope we start Malcolm in Cinci.... He and Dante are two guys that don't get intimidated by ANYBODY. Cinci is going to be a "snake pit" and if we let then get over on us the way DePaul did at the start of the game we are in for a long night.....

At 2:34 AM, January 07, 2008, Blogger Pete said...

I am guessing we will be about #18 in the polls tomorrow.


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