Tuesday, February 12, 2008


February 12, 2008

Providence is quickly watching an anticipated season get away from them before their very eyes. The potential of missing the Big East Tournament is very real for a squad that was quietly picked by many to challenge foe a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their fortunes turned sour when Sharaud Curry broke his foot prior to the season.

Speaking of tough breaks, Pittsburgh lost their floor general to a broken foot six weeks ago. This was two days after Mike Cook was lost for the season with a knee injury. However, the Panthers have remained above water and are 6-4 in the Big East and very well could have Levance Fields back on the court tonigth.

Here are the local media previews and stories on tonight's match-up:

Pitt's Fields Likely to Rejoin Team (Tribune-Review)
Pitt's Fields a Gametime Decision for Tuesday (Beaver County Times)
Panthers Face Rough Road for Stretch Drive (Post-Gazette)
Welsh Enters Center of Fan's Ire as Friars Stumble in Big East (Providence Journal)
PC @ Pitt Preview (Providence Journal)
It's Time for PC to End Welsh Era (Providence Journal)

It might be the night that the Pittsburgh players and fans have been waiting for since December 29th, the return of Levance Fields. The status of Fields and his likely return kind of sums up the direction of the two programs. Although Pitt is 3-3 in their last six since beating Georgetown, the Panthers have some optimism heading down the stretch and they stayed alove while Fields was out injured. Providence, on the other hand, has lost five of their last six since a stunning win at Connecticut. The win over UConn represents their lone road victory in Big East play as they sit at 4-7 with a tough stretch of games to finish out conference play. Making the Big East Tournament looks like a tough task as of this morning.

However, teams can sometimes rally around a cause and right now, that cause could be saving coach Tim Welsh's job. The pressure from fans and media is mounting on the Friar head man whose in his 10th season at PC. In those 10 years, Welsh has yet to win a game in the NCAA Tournament and they have made the Big Dance just two times. In what is widely regarded as the toughest job in the conference, there are legit concerns if Welsh would ever get the Friars to move up in the 'New' Big East. This was the season he pointed to, with an experienced and talented group, however, the injury to Curry has set them back, but injuries have been very common around the Big East and other teams have overcome them.

Looking at the Friars, you still see pieces that should be foing better than they are, but for some reason, the sum of the whole is less than it's parts. The Friars still struggle rebounding and defending, a common shortcoming of recent Friar teams, and spend an awful lot of time depending on the three-point attack. While Dwain Williams, Jeff Xavier and Brian McKenzie are all excellent three-point shootets, that seems to be their attack, pass around the perimeter hoping a three-point opportunity presents itself. When they are falling, like at UConn, they can look pretty good. When they are not falling, it can be disaster, especially with out Curry to create.

Still, the Friars seem to match-up pretty well here, but they will be tested inside by Pitt's DeJaun Blair. The big frosh has the beef and quickness inside that really tests the Friars inside game of Randall Hanke, Jonathan Kale and Ray Hall. The Friars will need to try to get Blair in foul trouble, if they are able to, it evens the match-up considerably. Sam Young and McDermott could be a physical battle at the forward position. PC does not run enough of its offense through McDermott and Young will look to attack him off the dribble. Any foul trouble here for either team is a big blow.

Pitt's senior guards Ron Ramon and Keith Benjamin have played really well in place of Fields, but getting Fields back should energize this group and make this unit deeper and stronger. Brad Wanamaker has gained valuable experience and fellow freshman Gilbert Brown is an exciting wing that seems to be on the verge of taking off.

Pitt has a tough schedule down the stretch and after this game they have back to back road games with Marquette and Notre Dame. Hitting this stretch with a win tonight will be a big lift. If Levance Fields enters the game, the place could go crazy and the energy lift Pitt needs from their emotional leader returning to the court could give them an extra push. The Friars, as 9-point underdogs, will rely on their three's, but if they are not falling, Pittsburgh should handle them well.

NBE Blogger Prediction: Pittsburgh 71 Providence 61



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