Big East Battle: #16 Pittsburgh At #18 Marquette
- CoachingAfter a weak nonconference slate, Pitt started 1-3 in the Big East. Jamie Dixon’s squad is 7-1 since and has a week to prepare for Marquette.Buzz Williams has taken Marquette to the Sweet 16 the past two seasons and has his team in the upper tier of the Big East. The schedule gets a lot tougher going forward.
- OffensePitt’s offense is ninth in the country in efficiency. A trio of upperclassmen—Tray Woodall, Talib Zanna, and Lamar Patterson—average between 10.1 and 10.9 points per game. Pitt is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation.The Golden Eagles lost their dynamic scoring duo from last season, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, but junior Vander Blue has stepped up and leads the team with 14.6 points per game.
- DefenseThe defense also ranks ninth in efficiency, making the Panthers one of just two teams to rank in the top 10 on both ends of the court (Florida is the other). Opponents are shooting just 33 percent the last three games.Marquette allows a lot of offensive rebounds, something Pitt will likely take advantage of. Opponents are shooting 40 percent against Marquette.
- Bench DepthIf you’re on scholarship at Pitt, expect to play significant minutes. The 10 Panthers that have seen action this season average at least 11 minutes per game.Davante Gardner comes off the bench and leads the team in rebounding and is second in scoring. Jamil Wilson shoots 41 percent from three.
These two teams met on Jan. 12 and Marquette won in overtime. But Pitt has looked like the better team since that game. If Marquette can keep the Panthers off the boards, as they did in the first meeting, they have a chance at the season sweep. -Andrew Kahn, College Basketball Contributor