You know those coincidental illnesses that fell many of us right around the start of the NCAA Tournament? Yeah, I actually did get sick and it timed out horribly. It’s not a deathly illness. It’s a sinus infection that I tend to get around this time of year. If that was it, it would be annoying but tolerable as the antibiotics kick it out. It’s the sleep deprivation from continually waking up from the coughing and continual drainage issues. Just been trying to get through work.
This is by no means a gimme first round game. Not simply because this is an 8-9 match-up. Personally, I think Pitt is seeded a bit low and WSU a bit high. But a 6-11/7-10 meeting is not exactly an uncommon upset. And superficially, some similarities on the resume.
Pitt went 4-7 against RPI teams in the top 50 and 5-0 against teams ranked 51-100. Its best wins came at second-seeded Georgetown (73-45) and against fourth-seeded Syracuse (65-55).
WSU, No. 37 in the RPI, went 3-2 against the top 50 and 5-3 against teams ranked 51-100.
The teams played three common opponents, all victories. Pitt defeated Howard (70-46), Detroit (74-61) and DePaul (93-55 and 81-66). WSU defeated Howard (69-50), Detroit (94-79) and DePaul (75-62).
The Shockers best wins came at VCU (53-51) and versus Creighton (67-64) who they also lost to twice.
This year’s Wichita team is somewhat reminiscent in their story line as the 2009 Pitt teams. They had a strong, veteran team the year before. Had a great year, but found disappointment in the NCAA Tournament. This was supposed to be their rebuilding year, plus had to deal with injuries in the season. Still, they kept scraping out wins, exceeded expectations and made the NCAA Tournament.
Replacing five starters was the least of Marshall’s worries. Three of the five new starters went down with injuries at various points in the season. One of them, Evan Wessel, the top 3-point shooter when he was injured, is out for the season with a broken finger. Two others missed significant portions of the season with other injuries.
Starter Carl Hall, the top rebounder and second-leading scorer, missed seven games with a broken thumb. Ron Baker, a 6-3 freshman guard, missed 21 games with a stress fracture in his foot but returned for the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and scored 29 points in three games.
“We kept finding ways to win,” Marshall said. “We kept finding new guys. Our 11th man would become our eighth man. Finding ways to win is very gratifying for a coach.”
Both teams stress rebounding, defense and offensive efficiency. The punditry from the national to the local are expecting a grinder game.
The Shockers did not draw a patsy, or a pansy, when it comes to the Panthers. WSU, the No. 9 seed in the West Regional, and eighth-seeded Pitt are a lot of like.
Both teams stress defense. Pitt has held its opponents to 55.4 points. To score against the Panthers, you almost need to ask permission.
The Shockers have one of their best defensive teams and have held foes to 60.7 points.
Pittsburgh’s field-goal percentage defense (39.3 percent) ranks 32nd in the country. WSU is 49th, limiting opponents to 40-percent shooting.
First to 50 points wins?
It’s as if WSU coach Gregg Marshall and Pitt head man Jamie Dixon are the same guy. I don’t believe, however, that they are, despite evidence that would indicate it’s a possibility.
Marshall loves a deep bench. So does Dixon. They would slip a band member into the game if they thought it would help the team.
As for the differences. Overall, Pitt shoots the ball better from inside and out, but Wichita shots free throws better. None of the numbers though, are especially glaring separation.
—————- Shockers ——- Panthers
FG% ———— 44.3% ——– 47.5%
3FG% ———- 33.7% ——— 36.0%
2FG% ——— 50.1% ———- 51.6%
eFG% ———- 50.2% ———- 52.2%
FT% ———- 68.8% ———– 66.4%
RPG ———— 38 —————- 35
APG ———— 14 —————– 17
TO/G ———– 13 —————- 11
The biggest difference is with regards to the assists to turnovers. Really that’s about it. Pitt takes a little better care of the ball and distributes a bit more.
That’s just the average stuff. The difference, offensively is where they get their production. The Shockers leading scorers are in their front court. A pair of 6-8 forwards in Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall. Early is a lot like USF’s Victor Rudd in that, despite his size, he will shoot from outside with frequency. Over 1/3 of his attempts are 3s (31.2 % on threes).
It suggests that Hall and Early get a number of buckets on offensive rebounds. How Pitt’s frontcourt contains them and battles for rebounds will go a long way towards determining what kind of game it will be.
Tempo wise, they are in the lower part of the country with 64.8 possessions per 40 minutes (254th) while Pitt is among the absolute slowest at 60.9 (335th). Again, not huge differences so no significant advantage.
In that respect, both teams won’t have to make any significant adjustments to the way they practice or preparation for the opponent.