The Pittsburgh Panthers roll into Milwaukee to face YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon at 1pm. Marquette will attempt to get a new winning streak started while celebrating both 95 years of Marquette Basketball and the 35th anniversary of the 1977 NCAA Championship team.
Pitt, on the other hand, well ... where to start? After starting the season with a cupcake win over Albany and a narrow escape from Rider, they got tripped up - at home, in the Oakland Zoo - by Long Beach State. The general reaction at the time was, "Well, this is why Long Beach State has the schedule they signed up for. They're pretty good." Pitt responded to the loss by reeling off 9 straight wins. In the middle of that run, point guard Tray Woodall suffered what was called a groin strain and abdominal tear. It was said he would miss 4 to 5 weeks. No one really noticed because Pitt kept winning.
In their last game before the Big East season started, Pitt got rolled by Wagner - again at home - and then let that run into the Big East season where they have yet to win a game in 4 attempts. What about Tray Woodall, you ask? He tried to come back after less than 4 weeks, played like crap, and hasn't played since. I can't even find an injury update about him through the use of Google. The best I can come up with is this article where it says he went to the doctor 10 days ago. I tripped over Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Pitt beat reporter Ray Fittipaldo's Twitter account and discovered that Woodall warmed up with the team before the Rutgers game before not playing and that head coach Jamie Dixon said this yesterday:
"I'm through speculating and guessing on it. At the end of the day it will be how he feels."
Who knows what that means for Saturday. With a tip of the cap to StatSheet.com, all we can tell you is what the numbers tell us...
1) They REALLY miss Woodall. Here's a chart of their Four Factors this season. Woodall was hurt against Duquesne on November 30th.
If you isolate to the blue line for effective field goal percentage, you can see that since hitting their 2nd highest percentage of the season on November 30th, they've been on a slide ever since. Their assists are way off as well. Before Woodall's injury, Pitt averaged 19.8 assists per game. After his injury, it's down to 14.3. Throw out the game against VMI where they scored 97 points and had 24 assists and the average tumbles to 13.2. While some of this is explainable through an improved level of competition because of the start of the Big East schedule, it doesn't explain everything.
2) Hey, remember Ashton Gibbs? Yeah, he was pretty great for Pitt last year, wasn't he? What's he up to in the NBA this year?
What's that? He stayed in school? ASHTON GIBBS IS PLAYING FOR THIS DISASTER? He was voted Preseason Player Of The Year? And Pitt's this bad?
Let's look at this.
3) For the love of Al McGuire, block someone out. I don't care who. Anyone. Block out Jamie Dixon if you have to. Just block a Panther out. They are the best in the country at grabbing their own misses, coming in at a rate of 46.3% of them. On top of that, they only let their opponents get to 29.5% of their misses, which is 78th best in the country.
Other than that, their team stats aren't pretty. The fact of the matter is that Marquette is in a position where they CAN NOT afford to let Pitt get off the mat here. Marquette has to go out and play smart (this means you and your fouls, Jae Crowder) and ruthlessly efficient and roll through a clearly reeling Pittsburgh team.