Marquette faces off against Pitt on Saturday afternoon at the Peterson Events Center in the Steel City. Both teams are off to 2-0 starts in conference play. Enough with the setup, here's the scoop on the Panthers so you, faithful Anonymous Eagle reader, are prepared for battle.
Scouring the Box Scores
A look at the statistical matchup
The Pittsburgh Panthers are an offensive juggernaut. No, I'm not talking about the halcyon days of Jackie Sherril and Dan Marino on the gridiron. I'm talking about the current basketball team. Now that you've picked your jaw off the floor, let's get into the numbers.
Pitt is #36 in the nation in eFG% and #1 in the nation in OR% (offensive rebounding %), which translates into a #1 ranking in points per possession in the land. This figures to be a big disadvantage for MU since the Warriors are #170 in eFG% defense and #133 in defending offensive rebounds.
On the positive side for MU, Pitt is fairly loose with ball, turning it over on 18.2% of possessions, which ranks #296 in the nation. On the flip side, Marquette is #41 in the nation in steals per game.
A look at the opposition's personnel
This is a typical Pitt team with many interchangeable parts and decent depth down low. Pittsburgh is probably the deepest team Marquette will face all year. Nine players average 13+ minutes a game and a 10th averages 9.5 minutes/game. As one would expect with this depth, the scoring is spread evenly with 7 players averaging at least 6.5 ppg.
Here's a quick rundown of each key player:
- Ashton Gibbs - leading scorer at 16 ppg and an absolute sniper from downtown. He's shooting 45% from 3-land and 87% from the line. There's more on Gibbs in the offensive breakdown below
- Brad Wanamaker - averages 12+ ppg but is the main distributor on the team. Old Man Wannamaker averages 5 assists/game, but turns it over a bit (2.5 TO/game)
- Gilbert Brown - more of a slasher with an effective but selective outside game. Brown shoots 44% from 3 on only 48 attempts
- Gary McGhee & Dante Taylor - these two basically split minutes at the 5 and combine for a double double every night with 13 & 12
- Travon Woodall - gets a lot of run as the backup point. He's not as adept as Wannamaker, but a solid backup.
A look at Keno Davis's favorite facet of the game, defense
Pittsburgh isn't as dominant defensively as they've been in years past, but they are still a solid outfit. They rank 42nd in KenPom's adjusted defense efficiency rankings. Pitt plays almost entirely man-to-man defense. They did incorporate some zone looks against Providence, but that was mainly the result of foul trouble. Pitt plays a more conservative style of defense and doesn't force a lot of turnovers. What they do well is limit offensive rebounds and free throw attempts.
One area to watch is how Marquette attacks their big men, McGhee and Taylor. In the Smarmy Tom Crean years, he pulled Ousmane Barro or Dwight Burke out from under the basket to set a plethora of picks at the top of the key. Everyone's favorite Pitt center, Aaron Gray, frequently became stranded on the perimeter, opening up the lane for MU's slashers and improving MU's rebounding chances.
This year, McGhee seems tempted to take chances when's he is pulled up top. He often tries to push the ball handler out further or stick is hand out in a passing lane. Unfortunately, MU doesn't have the personnel to take advantage of this overplay. Dante Taylor is less of a risk taker and tends to stay at home. Since Otule can't rebound, he should be used solely to pull the Panther bigs away from the hoop in an attempt to unclog the lane and give Butler and Crowder a shot to grab offensive boards.
Big Rick's O-fense
A look at the opponent's offensive approach
As mentioned above, Pitt has impressive offensive results and a multitude of weapons. But, what makes them go? It's hard to pin down one or two things because they execute so well offensively.
First off, Pitt screens everyone everywhere. The main villain is Gary McGhee. He'll set at least four picks on every offensive possession. Pitt also loves to run double screens to free up their guards and wings. Pay particular attention to Ashton Gibbs without the ball. He's quick and tireless trying to run his man into screens. On one possession against UConn he ran two straight circles through the lane until he lost his man. Since MU has had trouble fighting through screens, this could be a trouble area.
Occasionally, they will roll McGhee off screens for easy baskets. McGhee isn't skilled offensively, but he can finish and get points off putbacks. Otule needs to have his head on a swivel or McGhee could pick up 10 easy points.
Pitt's approach appears to shift when Taylor is in for McGhee. There is less screening, instead, Wanamaker's dribble penetration sets up the offensive attack.
Finally, Pitt plays a slow pace (#253 nationally), but don't let that fool you. They have the horses to finish in transition. Also, if they haven't found a good look, they have the athletes and shooters to break your heart at the end of the shot clock. Pitt's best offense is no longer a DeJuan Blair rebound.
All stats are courtesy of Statsheet.com and kenpom.com.