You almost get the feeling that the CBI is putting something in the water.
A day after Princeton went off for 95 points against Evansville (a score I never thought I”d write while covering this year”s Tigers), Pitt scored 81 in a rout of visiting
Wofford. Granted, it”s probably got less to do with the water and more to do with high-scoring teams playing new opponents without much advance scouting, but either way, the point is that defense has been at a premium so far in the tournament.
With all due respect to Evansville and a very good Missouri Valley Conference, the Pittsburgh Panthers represent a whole different breed of challenger for the Tigers. Say what you will about Pitt”s stumbles in the Big East, but this is still a team that was ranked in the Top-25 in both the coaches” poll and the AP
and had a great record in non-conference play before the Big East gauntlet. While clearly not the same team that earned a one seed to the Big Dance last season, Pitt is not a team to be taken lightly in the CBI.
(Brief storyline digression:
outside of the Impossible Dream of an All-Ivy Tournament Championship, there would be at least some poetic justice in letting Pitt and Butler, the team that knocked the Panthers out of the NCAA tournament last year, duke it out at some point. But since both Penn and Princeton would have to lose to make that possible, we will, of course, be rooting vehemently against this narrative. Now back to the preview!)
The Panthers made it rain against a relatively hapless Wofford squad, with a season-high 14 three pointers. But while that number might appear concerning for a Princeton team that just allowed Colt Ryan to set up camp and snipe from the outside in its last contest, the Pitt box score actually offers some modicum of hope for these Tigers. Namely, Pitt made only one free throw the entire game, suggesting that this is a Panthers team that likes best online casino to do its scoring on the outside without tangling down low. That”s actually great news for the Tigers, who have been good at defending the perimeter so long as the opposing team isn”t able to generate easy looks via dribble-penetration. If Brendan Connolly can keep his hands up and use his mean face to deter the Panthers
from even setting foot inside the arc, Princeton has a chance to cool the heels of these Panthers.
On offense, the Tigers can”t rely on another Doug Davis shooting clinic to improbably lead them to victory. Their best bet on offense is a balanced attack led by Ian Hummer, who has proved he has the court vision and instincts to either pass to the cutter out of the high-post or generate his own offense by taking his man one-on-one. Princeton probably won”t have the same kind of second-chance opportunities it was able to generate against a diminutive Evansville squad, so high-percentage chances are going to be especially crucial (look for master of offensive efficiency Mack Darrow to see a good deal of touches in this contest).
All in all, Pitt presents a significant challenge for Princeton, and while a Tigers/Panthers showdown might be a dead heat in the animal kingdom, on the court Pitt has the edge. But don”t count the Tigers out yet. This plucky Princeton squad can smell Quaker around the corner, and while a victory over the Panthers looks improbable on paper, some cold shooting by Pitt and some signature Princton offense might just be enough to make it to the semis of the CBI.
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