MBB: Pitt vs. Niagara Prediction
It’s finally college basketball season again, folks, and WPTS is ready for another season of Pitt basketball coverage. This season, we will have four members of our WPTS sports staff spit their basketball knowledge and predict each and every Pitt basketball game. The first game on the docket is the opening game of the 2014-2015 season: Pitt vs. Niagara at 7:00 pm on November 14th from the Petersen Events Center.
Dave Maloney, WPTS Sports Staff
The 2014-15 college basketball season is finally here, and the Pittsburgh Panthers are looking to rebound from 2 consecutive early exits in the NCAA tournament. The Panthers are also looking to build off of a fifth place finish in their first season in the ACC, but the conference becomes even stronger as former Big East foe Louisville joins the fun this year.
After two tune up exhibition games, the Panthers look to start their season off on the right foot when they take on the Niagara Purple Eagles of the MAAC this Friday. Coach Jamie Dixon expressed he was not satisfied with the defensive effort of his team against IUP and Philadelphia, so expect that to be a point of emphasis in Friday’s contest.
A lot of questions surround the loss of scoring the Panthers are going to have to deal with after losing Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. However, I believe with Durand Johnson coming back from his torn ACL and Mike Young progressing his game entering his sophomore season, the Panthers will be able to fill that scoring void.
The recipe for a Pitt victory is just to stick to their roots: play good hard team defense, out rebound the opponent, and share the ball offensively. Pitt does so and starts the season off with a win.
Pitt over Niagara 76-52
Andrew Stern, WPTS Sports Production Assistant
Pitt struggled defensively throughout the preseason, especially against Derek Johnson and D-II powerhouse Philadelphia, so Niagara may be able to target the shoddy Panther defense, especially on the perimeter.
Niagara is filled with youth and inexperience, as the Purple Eagles roster includes 13 underclassmen. Due to that, coming into the Peterson Events Center, one of the hardest places for visitors to play in the country, will likely be too much for the upstart Purple Eagles’.
Look for sophomore Mike Young, who averaged 22.0 PPG and 9.0 rebounds in the preseason, to take advantage of Niagara’s young big-men and have another solid performance.
Pitt 81, Niagara 60.
Tyler Turner, WPTS Sports Staff
There should be no problems on Friday night for the Pitt Panthers as they go up against one of their weakest opponents on the year. I’m picking Pitt to win based off of what I’ve seen this preseason and the fact that Niagara finished last in the MAAC Conference last year with an atrocious record of 7-26.
Pitt was a 9-seed last year in the NCAA tournament and beat Colorado in the first round. Pitt’s offense has been solid in its two exhibition games scoring over 70 points in each affair.
Pitt has been lead by Michael Young and Durand Johnson so far, with Young scoring 21 points and Johnson scoring 19 against Philadelphia. I look for Pitt to have another good offensive showing against a team in Niagara that was 348th overall in points allowed last year.
Pitt’s defense has been a little questionable this preseason allowing Derek Johnson of Philadelphia University to score 34 points; however, Pitt was ranked 20th in the nation in points allowed only allowing 61.9 points per game last season.
Pitt should have no problem defending a much lesser opponent. Pitt will have an easy opening night game demolishing the Niagara Purple Eagles.
Pitt 76, Niagara 59
Andrew Ziemba, WPTS Sports Staff
Not much is to be expected this season from a Niagara tem that only won seven games last season, even with the nation’s second leading scorer, senior Antoine Mason, who has since departed to play one season for the Auburn Tigers and first-year coach Bruce Pearl.
Mason averaged 25.6 points per game last season, only 1.3 less than Creighton superstar Doug McDermott. Forward Joe Thomas also transferred over the summer to Miami (FL). Thomas averaged 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 30 games last season.
With these two key players gone, it’s hard to tell exactly what Niagara can do this year. That being said, they are facing a Pittsburgh team that has looked defensively shaky in its preseason matchups with lower-tier schools such as Indiana of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia University. Niagara is still a Division I squad, and knows how to play Division I basketball.
The pressure will certainly be on the defense for Pitt, but solid offensive showings from players, such as forward Michael Young and center Joseph Uchebo, should help to keep them ahead for the win.
PITT 77 – NIAGARA 64