Pittburgh's star guard, Ashton Gibbs, is out with an MCL injury this weekend, but don't think that will slow the Panthers down. Even without their leading scorer, Pitt managed to take care of business against West Virginia on Monday night. They will arrive on campus well-rested and prepared to take on the Wildcats.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, may have also lost a top-scorer in guard Corey Stokes, who was on the losing end of his battle with turf toe on Wednesday night, being forced to the bench. Staff are calling his injury "day-to-day" which means we may not know if he will play on Saturday until shortly before the game.
If Stokes is unable to go, it may be interesting to see who starts the game in his place. While Dominic Cheek or James Bell may be the darkhorse candidates, more likely, Maalik Wayns would return to the starting lineup after a few-weeks of absence in favor of Isaiah Armwood.
For Pitt, senior guard Brad Wanamaker will have to step up and help the Pitt offense go without Gibbs on the court. He is second on the team in scoring, with 12.3 points and near the top of the Big East with 5.1 assists. Also averaging double-digits is Gilbert Brown, a senior forward who averages 11.4 rebounds per game and will be the team's best 3-point shooter with Gibbs out.
While no other player averages a score in double-digits, a few more are certainly capable of getting there on any given night. Junior forward Nasir Robinson is one of those players, and while he averages just 8.2 points per game, he has had a few big games, including a 15-point performance on Monday.
One of the more interestingmatch-ups on Saturday night will be between Mouphtaou Yarou and Pittsburgh big man, Gary McGhee. Rebounding has been a strength for the Pitt Panthers, and McGhee has been a big part of that, averaging 8.2 rebounds to go along with 7.3 points per game. The 6'10" senior center has not scored more than 13 points in a game this season, but he has reached that height four times this season (including in two of the last three games).
Beating Pitt won't be easy, but keeping McGhee and company off of the boards will be a start. Without Gibbs, Pitt will rely on it's ability to grab offensive rebounds to give their offense more opportunities to score.
Without Gibbs, Pitt will not only rely on defense and rebounding to get possession of the ball and to score, but will likely depend more on it's inside game to get points. Villanova will need strong defensive performances from Yarou, Pena and Armwood to control the low post.
As we've seen repeatedly this season: Any Big East team can win any given game on any given day. As bad as some of Villanova's losses are, the 'Cats can very well win this game, and there should be no doubt in your mind on that fact. There are no truly elite teams this season, and there is no reason for Villanova to be worried or scared.
The game will tip off at 9pm on Saturday, February 12, from the Pavilion. Television coverage from Villanova starts on Saturday morning with a live broadcast on ESPN, and Culminates on the same channel at 9pm.
If you can't attend the GameDay festivities on-campus, please check out your local alumni association gamewatch.
Manhattan Chapter (2 locations): Copper Door Tavern & The Australian. Click the link for more information on food and drink specials. A video feed from the Australian will be broadcast live to the Pavilion!
Washington, D.C. Chapter: Mackeys Public House. Click the link for more information. This gamewatch is also a fundraiser for Richard Travia '03. A video feed to the Pavilion will be active.
Boston Chapter: Game On- Boston.
Hoboken Chapter: Wicked Wolf Tavern
Northern California (San Francisco): Black Magic Voodoo Lounge at Lombard & Van Ness (1400 Lombard Street)
Northern California (South Bay): Double D's in Los Gatos
Southern California (OC): Silky Sullivans. Click the link for more information.
Chicago Chapter: Sedgewicks.
Atlanta Chapter: The Hudson Grille -- Brookhaven. Click the link for more information.
London (UK) Chapter: The Sports Cafe, 80 Haymarket. There is a private room reserved upstairs from 2:45pm GMT until the game is over in the wee hours of the morning. Video will be broadcast live to the Pavilion!
Or please click here for an up-to-date list from the alumni association.
Please send information on other chapter gamewatch events to brian[at]VUhoops.com.