Pitt faces a high-scoring, upset-minded Duquesne Dukes team Wednesday in the annual city game.
The Panthers have dominated the City Game recently, winning the past nine contests, and 27 of the past 30. Duquesne's last win was a 71-70 nailbiter. But Pitt's had its share of close victories as well. Last year, it took the favored Panthers two overtimes to turn away the Dukes. And in the 2007-08 season, heavily-favored No. 9 Pitt only won by five at a close game at the Palumbo Center.
I've written several times that I prefer the games to be played at each team's arena. I really like going to games at the Palumbo Center for the small-gym atmosphere it provides. I was in the upper part of the gym in the Pitt section for that 2007 game and it still felt like you were right on top of the court. But playing the game at the new Consol Center should mean a good time as well.
The Dukes are 3-1 on the season with its sole loss to Robert Morris. They play an up-tempo style and this year, are averaging 91 points per game - good for fifth in the nation. Duquesne is also shooting more than 50% from the field so far, 18th in the NCAA. Problem is that when they play tough teams like Pitt, the tempo is going to be slowed dramatically. And the Dukes aren't nearly as comfortable in a half-court setting. The Panthers have been playing a more wide open style of play this year, so I'll be interested in seeing if they maintain that or if they slow the game down a bit more than usual to get the Dukes out of their fast-court style.
Duquesne is led by seniors Bill Clark, Damian Saunders, junior B.J. Monteiro, who average more than 43 points and 18 rebounds per game. Clark leads the team in scoring (17.8), rebounding (7.0), and is second in assists (4.3) per game. Though the Dukes have some talented players, they are yet another fairly undersized team that Pitt will face. Their tallest starter is only 6'8" and the Dukes start three guards.
Another player of interest is local star guard T.J. McConnell from Chartiers Valley. McConnell is having a great year as a freshman, averaging ten points, five assists, a team-leading three steals, and nearly six rebounds per game. He also shoots an incredible 68% from the field and 70% from three-point range. So Pitt will clearly need to be wary of his outside shot. For a guard, that's pretty astonishing, even through only four games.
Pitt could get a stiff test from a Duquesne team that gave them a run for their money last season.