Get ready for some fireworks Feb. 27 at the KFC Yum Center. The best road team in the Big East is taking on the best home team in the conference.
Fourth-ranked Pitt (25-3, 13-2) will play No. 16 Louisville (21-7, 10-5) in a game in which something has to give. The Panthers are a Big East best 6-1 in road games with the lone loss coming at St. John's on Feb. 19 when a last-second shot did them in.
Louisville, meanwhile, is 7-0 at home during the Big East schedule.
Pitt does not have good memories of its last visit to Louisville. The Panthers brought a No. 1 ranking into Freedom Hall in 2009 and walked out with their first loss of the season, a 69-63 setback. Louisville would go on to win the Big East regular-season title that season.
With a victory Feb. 27, Pitt can take another step toward its first regular-season title in seven years. The Panthers own a two-game lead over second-place Notre Dame with three games remaining.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Junior forward Nasir Robinson is turning into Pitt's secret weapon. Four times in the past five games through Feb. 24, Robinson, the team's fourth-leading scorer with 8.8 points per game, has scored in double figures.
How odd is it for Robinson to be a main scorer for Pitt? In the first 23 games of the season, Robinson scored in double figures just four times.
--Pitt shot 65 percent in the second half en route to a 71-58 win over West Virginia on Feb. 24. It was the second time this season the Panthers trailed the Mountaineers at halftime and came back to win. Nasir Robinson led the way with 15 points, and Lamar Patterson, Gilbert Brown and Brad Wanamaker registered 11. The Panthers also did a nice job defensively, holding the Mountaineers to 33 percent shooting.
--Why is Pitt leading the toughest conference in America, the Big East? Consider this. Through Feb. 20, the Panthers ranked in the top four in the conference in scoring offense (4), scoring defense (2), scoring margin (1), field goal percentage (3), field goal percentage defense (4), 3-point percentage (1), rebounding offense (1), rebounding defense (1) , rebounding margin (1), assists (1), assist-turnover margin (2), offensive rebounds (1), defensive rebounds (4).
--Over the last 10 seasons (through Feb. 20), Pitt was the Big East's best team with a winning percentage of just under .800 with 269 victories and 67 defeats, nine NCAA Tournament appearances and 10 consecutive 20-victory, 10-league victory seasons.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- The number of consecutive games Pitt had won from St. John's before being upset on Feb. 19 by the rapidly improving Johnnies. Pitt also had not lost to St. John's in five years.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "A three minutes we don't want to remember." -- Pitt G Brad Wannamaker, quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on the final meltdown in an upset loss at St. John's on Feb. 19.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--at Louisville, Feb. 27
KEY MATCHUPS: Louisville has been a different team home and away, recording a 16-2 record in its new home, but Pitt has truly been a road warrior, going 6-0 on opponent's courts and 3-1 on neutral courts. Louisville offers a guard-oriented balanced offense with G Preston Knowles leading the way at 14.9 per game through Feb. 20. G Peyton Siva was the only other player in double figures at 10.4 but there were three players scoring between nine and 10 points a game. The Cardinals play solid defense but Pitt should handle them on the boards.
FUTURES MARKET: Pitt's senior class is saying goodbye in a big way and has the NCAA championship on its mind. The class consists of Gilbert Brown, Gary McGhee and Brad Wannamaker and it has won 107 games during its run. It needs six more victories to berak the school record of 112 held by the 2008-09 senior class of Tyrell Biggs, Levance Fields and Sam Young. The current senior class' winning percentage of .810 is second to the 2004-05 class of Chevon Troutman and Mark McCarroll.
--Freshman G/F Lamar Patterson had the best game of his career Feb. 24 against West Virginia. He was 4-for-6 from the field and scored a career-high 11 points. He also had five assists, two blocks, a steal and no turnovers. The most Patterson had scored in a game this season had been seven, against Maryland in the fourth game of the season.
--Redshirt freshman F Talib Zanna will miss three to six weeks with a broken right thumb. Zanna was injured Feb. 24 after a pregame meal when some horseplay involving teammates went awry while he was getting into a car.