Big East/SEC Challenge Face-off: Pittsburgh vs Tennessee

Posted by mlemaire on December 3rd, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Pittsburgh v. Tennessee.

#18 Pittsburgh vs Tennessee

Mike: At the beginning of the season, I would have picked Pittsburgh to win this game by a large margin, but the Panthers have struggled mightily against inferior opponents and do not have the look of a contender, at least not yet. To make matters worse, Jamie Dixon announced Friday that starting point guard and one of the team’s best offensive players, Travon Woodall, was going to miss a month because of a number of different injuries. The Panthers still have star guard Ashton Gibbs and efficient forward Nasir Robinson, but Woodall (14.1 PPG, 8.3 APG, 45% 3FG) had really improved his game this year and was truly the engine that made the Panthers go. Dixon will be forced turn to freshman John Johnson who is lightning quick and a strong on-ball defender, but his offensive game lacks polish and he has only been playing a little more than ten minutes per game this season. Expecting the true freshman to replace Woodall’s production is foolish, but if he can take care of the basketball and feed Gibbs and Robinson he should prove a capable stop gap in the short term. Tennessee isn’t particularly deep, but their backcourt tandem of Trae Golden and Jordan McRae is lethal from behind the arc and as Brian pointed out, Jeronne Maymon really played well in Maui and could be an emerging force in the paint for the Volunteers. Usually the staple of Jamie Dixon’s teams is their defense. However, this year, Pitt has been the most efficient offensive team in the country, but they are #168 in adjusted defense and are really missing the length and versatility of Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown. I think this is going to be a very close game but with the way Pitt is playing and the injury to Woodall, I think Tennessee has too much firepower on offense for the Panthers. I think Ashton Gibbs will have a huge game, but I don’t think it will be enough in the end. Prediction: Tennessee 72 — Pittsburgh 68

Jamie Dixon's Team Has Struggled Defensively

Brian: I really liked Tennessee‘s effort and intensity in Maui. They truly played with a sense of urgency that I hope continues throughout the season. Jeronne Maymon’s effort was especially impressive. He is averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, but it was his 32-point, 20-rebound performance against Memphis that made me a believer. He’s built like a defensive lineman, and he’s got a fairly nice shooting touch from mid-range. Cuonzo Martin‘s team wont be as easy to defeat as many believed in the preseason. Tennessee was picked to finish 11th out of 12 SEC teams, but the Vols are much better than that. That being said, I’m not sure Tennessee has an answer for Ashton Gibbs, who is averaging 19.1 PPG on 42.9% shooting from three-point range. The Vols haven’t been effective at stopping the outside shot, and Gibbs’ shooting could be what does them in during this one. I expect to see a great effort from the Vols, but I think they will come up short. Prediction: Pittsburgh 81 — Tennessee 73
mlemaire (229 Posts)


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