The Panthers have a big game with Duke on Monday, but before that is a typical trap game against Maryland on Saturday.
Pitt handily won the first matchup with the Terrapins a couple of weeks ago, but this time, they're on the road. Not to mention, Maryland surely wants some measure of revenge against a team that just beat them by 20 points. If you're a Pitt fan, there are plenty of reasons to be wary of this one. The Panthers' game against Clemson did a little bit to relieve my fears about this game, but it still could prove difficult.
For starters, Maryland is only 11-8 on the year and will come out tough trying to get a quality win. The Terrapins have an uphill battle when it comes to trying to get into the NCAAs. But a win against Pitt would give their resume a considerable boost. While Maryland will have other chances at quality wins against teams like Virginia (twice), Duke, North Carolina, and Syracuse, three of those five games are on the road. Maryland's best chances for a marquee win will be at home and that's where they need to capitalize.
The game's on the road for Pitt and the Terps are a solid 7-2 at home, including two ACC wins against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame. It's not easy to win any conference road game and even though the Panthers are the better team, home court advantage can go a long way.
The Panthers could also be caught looking ahead to the game against the Blue Devils Monday night. Jamie Dixon did a good job of gaining the team's focus against Clemson, but can he get the team up again ... only to have to do it again two days later? My guess is the team will be focused, but it's no guarantee.
Another thing to watch for is that Maryland has a more involved Seth Allen. Now, Allen hasn't played particularly well, but he's still getting into the flow of things and he is playing more. In the three games prior to the first matchup against Pitt, he was averaging only about 20 minutes a game. In the four games since, though, Allen is averaging just over 25. He's been incredibly streaky this year, but played well against Pitt the first time around.
Lastly, Pitt is also without Durand Johnson this time. He had a career-high 17 points in the first game and really was a big reason the team won. The Panthers are a weaker team without him and while they've done a good job so far in stretching the minutes of starters and involving some of the bench players a little more, he was still a key player.
Pitt's the better team here, but I have a hard time believing Maryland won't come out hungry in this one after the way the Panthers embarrassed them the first time around. Keep an eye on this one.
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