Pitt Basketball: Panthers Set To Brawl Again With West Virginia

Pitt puts aside a disappointing loss and will face West Virginia on Thursday. Unfortunately, the game is a 9:00 p.m. start - meaning a late night for those of us heading to the game. As long as we can avoid another 8+ inches of snow, it might not be too bad, though.

Especially after a win.

I don't always think Pitt will come away with a win, but I'm feeling fairly confident for this game.

For starters, Pitt went down to Morgantown and came away with a win - without Ashton Gibbs if you need a refresher. And at home, Pitt hardly ever loses. Other than the Notre Dame setback, Pitt is perfect at the Pete.

Last time around, the name of the game was balance. Pitt had four players in double figures in scoring in Gibbs' absence. Pitt also put a beating on the Mountaineers on the boards, 39-25.

Pitt's offense also hasn't scored more than the 71 points they tallied in that game since a win against DePaul about a month ago. I've been harping on the offense lately, and that's not going to change. I'm pretty concerned about the team's ability to score lately and Saturday's game did nothing to calm those fears. The good news is that Pitt has a few games to get back in sync before the postseason.

And about that last game - of course, there was the unfortunate Deniz Kilicli incident...you know, where he had the game of his life against Pitt:

"We finally threw him the ball, finally," said Bob Huggins after the game. "We should have thrown him the ball the Villanova game and we didn’t. That was an emphasis yesterday; make sure we throw him the ball when he’s working for it. Throw him the ball."

I have a feeling we're going to be seeing them target him pretty heavily in this game. Kilicli's game almost cost Pitt the game and the unsettling thing is that many of the baskets he scored were nearly impossible to defend - even for Gary McGhee, who is a great defender:

Pitt center Gary McGhee defended Kilicli for most of the night.

"He’s one of the best post-defenders in the Big East," said Kilicli. "In the beginning of the season, what I did was watch his games because he guards the post pretty well. All the shots, he contested, and they are normally tough shots. He almost clapped every shot, but it went in today and I’ve been working on that."

While Kilicli hasn't had another game like that one all season long, he has been an effective scorer at times, getting into double figures eight times this season. If his miniature hook shot is on, there's not much Pitt can do. I don't expect Pitt to double-team him, so I'll be curious to see if they try to deny him the ball a bit more.

The Panthers are also going to have to deal with Casey Mitchell this time. He played in the last game, but was just coming back from missing several games and was a bit rusty. Mitchell went off on Syracuse last week, scoring 23 points in only 26 minutes.

For Pitt, this game may be a must-win for Pitt if they want to land a No. 1 seed. The road doesn't get any easier from here with a home game against Villanova and a road game at Louisville still on the plate. On the other hand, while West Virginia should get in, Bob Huggins knows there's a little more work to do:

Heading into Thursday night's rematch at No. 4 Pitt and then with three regular-season games remaining after that, little has changed. The Mountaineers still need to win some games.

If Huggins' formula is right, a 2-2 split should more than do the trick.

"If you win 10 games in this league you're going to get in. Nothing else really matters,'' Huggins said. "Ten wins assures you of getting into the NCAA tournament. You can talk about anything else you want to talk about, but if you win 10 games in this league, you're in.''

(Insert standard company line from player here):

"We can't concern ourselves with anything other than just playing each game and trying to win,'' said point guard Joe Mazzulla. "Do that and everything else takes care of itself.

With games against Pitt, Louisville, UConn, and Rutgers, a 2-2 split isn't guaranteed. But even if West Virginia only manages to beat, say, Rutgers, I still think a single win in the Big East gets them in. 19 total wins, Nine wins in the conference, and key victories against Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Purdue? I don't see any way they don't get in with that resume.

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