DePaul Blue Demons vs. Pittsburgh Panthers - Sunday, March 9th, 11:00 a.m. (Central) – Pittsburgh, PA
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DePaul's Big East Tournament hopes may be on the line when they travel to the Keystone State to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers for their final regular season match up. Going into this weekend's games, both DePaul and Providence have identical Big East records of 6-11 and are vying for the 12th and final spot of the Big East Tournament. DePaul needs Providence to lose to Villanova on Saturday to have any shot of being included. If Providence does lose, DePaul may be faced with a must win at Pittsburgh to get that coveted 12th spot.
DePaul (10-18, 6-11) comes into the game after breaking a five game losing streak when they beat Cincinnati 60-54 on Thursday night. Pittsburgh on the other hand will likely be playing for seeding in both the Big East and NCAA Tournament since they have a formidable record of 20-9 overall and 9-8 in Big East play and carry a worthy RPI ranking of 25. Pittsburgh has been vulnerable in their last couple of games though, going 2-4 in their last six games and are fresh off getting crushed at West Virginia 76-62.
DePaul still faces a tall order in trying to beat the Panthers. Pitt is a different team at home and on Sunday the Panthers will salute their three departing seniors Ronald Ramon, Keith Benjamin, and the injured Mike Cook. All three have played a key part in Pittsburgh success over the years.
However, Pittsburgh head coach Jaime Dixon relies on a pair of juniors and an emerging big freshman to make his team go.
Sam Young, a 6-6 junior forward, is an athletic dynamo who has really stepped up his game this year. Young paces the squad with a team leading 18 ppg (which places him third in the Big East).
5-10 junior Levance Fields(11.1 ppg) is Pitt's sparkplug. He averages a team best 5.2 assists, which would place him third in the Big East if not for his injury.
Back in December, Fields broke his foot in a loss at Dayton and missed 12 games. Since he has come back, the team has been trying to get him up to speed and have struggled to go 2-4. But don't be mistaken, Fields is tough and the Panthers are a better team with him. Just think back to when the Panthers were fully healthy. It was Fields who drilled a three pointer with time expiring to win an exciting game over Duke in the early part of the season that made the team 11-0 and in the top 10.
Pitt also gets a big contribution from 6-7 freshman DeJuan Blair. Blair averages nearly a double-double (12 ppg and 9.3 rpg) and is beast inside. Blair's match-up with DePaul's Mac Koshwal (10.7 ppg and 8.4 rpg) should be an interesting battle of two of the top Big East freshmen big men.
DePaul's fate might be learned before the game. If Providence wins its game vs. Villanova, DePaul will have no shot at going to New York for the Bog East Tournament. So this might be DePaul's last game no matter what. It should be interesting to see what DePaul has to play for, and perhaps build for a better campaign next year. While DePaul's seniors, particularly Draelon Burns (17.6 ppg-4th in the Big East), want to go out on a high note, expect some of DePaul's future to be on display namely Koshwal, freshman Darquavis Tucker (13.3 ppg) and sophomore Will Walker (9.8 pg).
It should be an interesting game regardless as Pitt tries to enhance their NCAA resume while DePaul fights and claws for either the last spot in the Big East Tournament or build some confidence toward the 2008-2009 season.
# NAME HT/WT POS YR HOMETOWN/LAST SCHOOL
0 Austin Wallace 6-9/220 Center RS FR Bronx, N.Y./LaSalle Academy
1 Keith Benjamin 6-2/190 Guard SR Mount Vernon, N.Y./Mount Vernon H.S.
2 Levance Fields 5-10/190 Guard JR Brooklyn, N.Y./Xaverian H.S.
4 Ronald Ramon 6-1/185 Guard SR Bronx, N.Y./All Hallows H.S.
5 Tyrell Biggs 6-8/240 Forward JR Nanuet, N.Y./Don Bosco Prep (N.J.)
11 Gilbert Brown 6-6/200 Guard/Forward RS FR Harrisburg, Pa./South Kent Prep (Conn.)
22 Brad Wanamaker 6-4/200 Guard FR Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic H.S.
23 Sam Young 6-6/215 Forward JR Clinton, Md./Hargrave Military Academy
24 Tim Frye 6-4/190 Guard FR Mars, Pa./Mars H.S.
31 Mike Cook 6-4/215 Guard/Forward SR Philadelphia, Pa./East Carolina
40 Maurice Polen 6-5/245 Forward JR Philadelphia, Pa./West Philadelphia H.S.
45 DeJuan Blair 6-7/265 Forward FR Pittsburgh, Pa./Schenley H.S.
50 Cassin Diggs 6-10/270 Center JR Williamsport, Pa./Cloud County C.C.
52 Gary McGhee 6-10/255 Center FR Anderson, Ind./Highland Senior H.S.
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