Insiders College Basketball Report

Pitt gets set with two Big East games this week with a trip to Georgetown on Wednesday, and a home game Saturday with Seton Hall, who is always an unpredicatble opponent for the Panthers.

Even when you are among the nation's top teams, there are flaws in your game that pop up at times during the season, flaws that will eventually grab you if they aren't addressed.

That might by why Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon is one of the best in the business.

It's happened a few times this year and each time No. 5 Pitt has addressed the problem immediately and corrected it.

When the Panthers faced Tennessee, the Vols pushed the ball and showed a flaw in the Panthers' transition defense. The next few practices saw Dixon turn the focus on transition defense.

His team got the point.

As the season wore on it became apparent that Pitt was not shooting free throws well, standing next to last in the Big East conference. So it was that Dixon had his players stay after practice to shoot free throws.

Next time out, against Providence, they hit 19-of-25 including 6-of-6 in the final 17 seconds to put the game away.

But you address one problem, another pops up and in that Providence game the team began turning the ball over, 23 in all. Four came from point guard Travon Woodall and four each from the other guards Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wannamaker.

Guess what? The next game, against Marquette, the turnovers were cut from 23 to 10 while Gibbs' turnovers dropped to three, Woodall to two and Wannamaker to one.

--Now in its ninth season in the Petersen Events Center, Pitt's record is 143-11 and the Panthers on an 18-game home winning streak. They have won 49 of their past 50 home games.

--How do you win a game when you force only two turnovers, as Pitt did against Marquette? You shoot 60 percent with 30 of 50 from the field and grab off 11 offensive rebounds. Pitt has had 10 or more offensive rebounds in all 16 games.

--Pitt's floor game reached a high point against Marquette, assisting on 24 of 30 baskets with seven different players registering at least one assist.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 -- Pitt and Marquette are the only Big East Conference teams to win 10 or more conference games in each of the past five seasons.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think their personnel and the leadership of their team is as good as anybody in the country." -- Marquette Coach Buzz Williams on the Pitt Panthers.

--at Georgetown, Jan. 12
KEY MATCHUPS: This is not your father's Georgetown team. Whereas the Hoyas once relied heavily on centers like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo, Georgetown now is a guard-oriented team that can really shoot. West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins said the Hoya perimeter players were "as good as anyone in America." They are led by Austin Freeman, who is third in the conference in scoring. He's joined by Chris Wright, who leads in assists with 6.2 while averaging 12.7 points a game, and Jason Clark, who averages 13.3 a game entering the week. As a team, Georgetown leads the conference in field goal and three-point percentage.

--vs. Seton Hall, Jan 15
KEY MATCHUPS: Seton Hall is having big problems scoring points. The Pirates have been without Jeremy Hazell since the third game, when he broke his left wrist. Hazell is the centerpiece of the team, having scored 1,861 career points and averaging 20 or better each of the past two years. He was averaging 24.0 points when injured. Only four times all year has the Hall scored 70 or more points. Seton Hall's inside play with Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson has been fine, but Pitt's three guards should be able to do what they want with them on the outside.

FUTURES MARKET: All of a sudden, they are beginning to notice just what Coach Jamie Dixon has meant to the Pitt program and, considering the turmoil of the football program, are appreciating him even more. Winning has become a given in the basketball program, Dixon's .703 winning percentage being the best in Big East history. It seems there have been a couple of pretty good coaches included in Big East history. Dixon doesn't plan to let it end any time soon. "You don't want to take it for granted," Dixon told Mike Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I talked to our coaches about it afterward. I do expect to win. Our fans expect us to win. I guess it's better than the alternative. But it's not easy and shouldn't be taken for granted."

--Senior F Gilbert Brown is on a hot streak. After Marquette, he had hit 57.9 percent of his field goals over six games and was even better from 3-point range with 62.5 percent.

--Senior C Gary McGhee used to make his contributions almost exclusively on the boards but he has become a scorer. Against Marquette he scored in double figures for the third straight game and fourth in five games, scoring 12 points and going 5-for-5 from the floor.

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