Hoops Preview: Pittsburgh

With the win over Illinois, Texas advances to the finals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. Get opponent strengths, weaknesses and the keys to the game from Inside Texas Basketball Coaches Corner moderator Tim Preston.
Hoops Preview: PittsburghDate: Friday, November 19Time: 6:30 CentralTelevision: ESPN2Location: Madison Square Garden, New York CityOpponent Strengths: Offensive effectiveness. Pittsburgh runs a motion offense (sometimes 3 out 2 in, sometimes 4 out 1 in) that requires you to defend in some of the same ways that Illinois does. Coach Jamie Dixon does a terrific job of preparing his players for his offense and they make you defend them out of multiple looks. Rebounding. Pittsburgh crashes the glass on both ends of the floor. They chase rebounds well in space. They have athletes that can elevate and retrieve caroms. As a team, they take a lot of pride in their rebounding and it shows (outrebounded Maryland 43 – 25 last night).Toughness. Pitt is a consummate East Coast team in that they play with unquestioned toughness in all facets of the game. They scramble after loose balls, they willingly look to play hard defense and take charges, they screen well. Tons of little things that add up to a Panther team that is tough to play both for talent and effort. Dixon is a masterful coach that makes the most of his talent, year in and year out.Pitt looks to be lead by Ashton Gibbs, a 6’2” Junior Combo Guard who is averaging 18, 4 and 4. Gibbs is primarily a perimeter shooter that can make you pay with both the step back and the catch and shoot. He’s a high percentage shooter (46% overall and 48% from deep) that is a capable ball handler with good vision.Brad Wannamaker, a 6’4” Senior Point Guard will lead the Pittsburgh attack (17, 5 and 5). An active defender, Wannamaker shoots an extremely high percentage from the field (62% overall) and does a terrific job of playing within his strengths. He doesn’t take bad shots, he doesn’t turn the ball over, Brad is another excellent facilitator in a long line of Pittsburgh guards.Opponent Weakness: Ball control. Pitt is solid with the ball but has a tendency to turn the ball over in spurts. When the pace gets too up tempo, their wings are too likely to take the ball in isolation as opposed to look for the quick pass.Help defense. For the length and athleticism that Pitt possesses, they don’t block a large number of shots. Pittsburgh is susceptible to teams with good spacing because they attempt to play your in straight up man out to the perimeter. This can function to take away their interior players’ effectiveness on defense. Texas Keys: OffenseTempo. Pitt is excellent in the half court on defense. They are active in passing lanes, they take good angles, they fight through screens. Texas doesn’t want to get into a grind it out game with a Pitt team that is super efficient with the basketball. Dogus’s and Cory’s ability to push the ball in transition will go a long ways towards dictating the style of the game.Free throws. This is key both because we need to shoot high percentages to beat good teams, and because Pittsburgh is a team that will foul you instead of giving up the basket around the rim. Texas needs to shoot in the mid-60s tonight with a considerably better showing from Gary and Jordan.Cory Joseph. Yesterday he was solid, we need for him to continue to make strides tonight. If he can step into shots, create separation with his dribble and allow for good spacing, we’re going to be tough to defend. But he must make the defense account for him in the half court. Pittsburgh is too strong on defense to not have to guard the ball honestly.Texas Keys: DefenseNo mental lapses. Texas defenders must maintain mental awareness of where their responsibility is because Pitt will exploit a lack of recognition. You have to play Pittsburgh straight up because of their collective vision. They will find the open man if you allow them to.Rebound and push. Texas wants Pitt to press, offensively, which is where they are at their weakest. Texas bigs must look for the outlet consistently off of the carom and get the ball out in transition quickly. Pitt needs to be made to feel that their shots have to fall or they will pay. If they can play loosely and without concern for tempo, they force you to defend at a high level.Dogus’s minutes. What will he be capable of after a huge performance yesterday? Can he give 17 – 22 quality minutes? If not, Pittsburgh’s depth/ability at guard will be tough for Jai or J’Covan to match.The EndgameThis one’s all about the pacing that we can get Pittsburgh to play at. If Texas can push the score into the 80s, they’re going to like their chances. But if it’s in the high 60s / low 70s, Pittsburgh’s efficiency on the offensive end, coupled with their rebounding, is going to be hard to beat.I like Texas to pull out a close victory by keeping the rebounding close and Cory Joseph finding his offense. Prediction: Texas 83 – Pittsburgh 81Projected Starting LineupJosephBalbayHamiltonJohnsonThompson