Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Postgame Shootaround: Pitt vs. Rhode Island

This is the debut of a new feature, one where we'll recap a game and what you can take from it going forward through the season. First impressions are huge in college basketball, and last night's matchup between No. 4 Pittsburgh and Rhode Island went a long way in determining not just what to watch for, but what both teams are made of. In last night's battle, Rhode Island came to play early and demonstrated a knack for hitting outside shots before falling to the Panthers 83-75 at the Petersen Center. If you didn't see the game, you missed a really good one; but hopefully this will get you caught up and help prepare you for what lies ahead.
  • Brad Wanamaker is an elite player.
Don't believe anything that says otherwise as Jamie Dixon's senior guard has made a name for himself one too many times. Last night proved his clutch ability once again, as he made several huge plays that won't show up in the box score that sealed Pitt's victory down the stretch. What does show up in the stat lines is 24 points, 8 assists and 10-of-13 from the free throw line.
  • Remember this name: Talib Zanna.
Everyone raved about this kid a year ago before he even played a game. Now a redshirt freshman, Zanna showed that he could potentially be the heir apparent to DeJuan Blair with nine points and eleven rebounds. It will be interesting to see how Dixon uses his young forward as the season progresses.
  • Don't be afraid to go outside against Pitt.
This applies primarily to Big East teams like Villanova, Syracuse and even St. John's among others, teams that rely on long-range shooting to win games. Rhode Island shot 44% from beyond the arc last night (14-for-32) and seemed to will one 3 after another into the basket to keep the game within reach. For the Panthers, guarding against triple threats the likes of Corey Stokes, Brandon Triche and Dwight Hardy will need to become a greater priority in conference play.
  • Rick Pitino hit the nail on the head at Big East media day.
The Louisville coach told me last month that there was "no lock at the top" of the conference. After watching Rhode Island expose the Panthers and battle them throughout, Pitino was either prophetic or just simply knows what he's talking about, and it's definitely the latter. Rhode Island's efforts will be on the minds of mid-majors and fringe Top 25 teams that are playing the Big East during the season, and the chance of an upset is always there.
  • The Atlantic 10 isn't a two-team league this year.
Looking at all the predictions, it seems like Temple and Xavier were the only A-10 programs getting a great deal of hype. Add Rhode Island into that mix after what they gave you for forty minutes last night, and don't forget reigning NIT champion Dayton and NCAA Tournament participant Richmond, whose matchups against Seton Hall later in the year are now more appetizing than they originally were.
  • Both teams walk away winners in the grand scheme of things.
Even though it was Pitt who moved to 1-0 in the books, both teams were given the gift of being battle-tested early in the season. Jamie Dixon even said in his postgame press conference that Rhode Island was "too good to play this early on" in the season. The Panthers don't get it any easier as they head to Madison Square Garden next week to play Maryland and then either Texas or Illinois, while the Rams can use their back class in winnable nonconference games against Davidson, Providence and Boston College. Rhode Island also gets Florida later on in the year in Gainesville in a game that should be very similar to this one.

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