Providence looks to win their second in a row Tuesday night when Pittsburgh (15-4, 3-3) invades the Dunkin Donuts Center (7pm, ESPN2). Here’s what to watch for:
1. Pittsburgh will want to grind this game out. Jamie Dixon’s group has size on the interior in leading scorer Talib Zanna and a pair of former McDonald’s All Americans in Steven Adams and Dante Taylor. They’ve held opponents to just over 53 points per game – good for sixth in the nation.
With a pair of terrific point guards in senior Tray Woodall and impressive freshman James Robinson, this is a group comfortable playing in the halfcourt. While they’re holding opponents to one of the lowest scoring marks in the country, they are fifth in the nation in assists at 17.8 per game.
Dixon will throw live bodies as the Friars, as 10 players average over 12 minutes per game. Role players like JJ Moore, Trey Zeigler and Lamar Patterson are all good enough to turn the tide of any Big East game this season. Patterson has twice led them in scoring in their Big East games.
2. The battle on the glass. Is Providence a better rebounding team than given credit for? After the Friars’ victory over Villanova on Saturday Jay Wright raved about their ability to hit the glass, and they quietly lead the Big East in offensive rebounds and they’re fourth in boards overall (both figures in conference play only).
With Providence’s struggles from the field in Big East play, they’ll have to continue to generate second and third possessions to be successful, and they will be challenged Tuesday as Pitt is third in the Big East in defensive rebounding percentage in conference games.
3. Finding a scoring option outside of Cotton. No other player is averaging over 20 points per game in Big East play this year. Bryce Cotton has carried the load for the Friar offense, averaging 21.3 points in conference games.
During the final 10 minutes against Villanova, Vincent Council provided late lift, scoring nine points in a four minute span. They need one of Council, Kadeem Batts or LaDontae Henton to give them a similar spark Tuesday night.
4. The Panthers have been strong against teams outside of the top 50. Pittsburgh is 1-4 on the year against teams with an RPI in the top 50, but have gone 14-0 versus teams ranked 51 or higher. After losing to Cincinnati in their conference opener and then falling way behind early in a loss to Rutgers, they’ve played terrific basketball of late.
They hammered Georgetown, 73-45, when the Hoyas were ranked 19th, fell to Marquette in overtime after tying the game with a three pointer at the buzzer and then defeated Villanova, 58-43, by holding them scoreless for the final five minutes of the game.
They are coming off of a victory on Saturday over UConn, giving them wins in three of their last four conference games.
In a testament to their depth, the Panthers have had four different leading scorers in their six Big East games.
5. Playing leapfrog. Providence’s win on Saturday not only kept them from the conference’s basement, but allowed them to leap over DePaul, Seton Hall and South Florida. They have a chance to match Pitt’s Big East record at 3-4 with a win Tuesday.
Pitt is currently sixth in Big East.