March 6, 2009
GAME 31: #1 CONNECTICUT (27-2, 15-2 Big East) at #3 PITT (27-3, 14-3 Big East)
Saturday, March 7, 2009 Noon ET Petersen Events Center (12,508) Pittsburgh, Pa.
Television: CBS Sports-National (Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery; Producer: Bob Mansbach).
Radio: Pitt Panthers/ISP Sports Radio Network (Bill Hillgrove and Dick Groat), 94.5-FM (WWSW), 970 AM (WBGG). Satellite Radio: Channel 123 (Pitt feed).
Internet Radio Broadcast/Live Stats: www.pittsburghpanthers.com
The Coaches: Pitt: Jamie Dixon, 10th year at Pitt, 6th year as head coach (159-43); Connecticut: Jim Calhoun, 23rd year at UConn (553-202), 37th year overall (801-339).
Rankings: Pitt: 3-AP, 4-ESPN; Connecticut: 1-AP, 1-ESPN.
Series: Pitt and Connecticut meet for the 56th time in series history. Pitt is 25-30 all-time vs. Connecticut, 10-11 vs. UConn at home and 3-1 vs. the Huskies at the Petersen Events Center. No. 4 Pitt won a 76-68 decision over No. 1 UConn on Feb. 16, 2009. The series is tied 5-5 over the series' last 10 games played.
PITTSBURGH--No. 3 ranked Pitt (27-3, 14-3 Big East) hosts Big East rival and No. 1 ranked Connecticut (27-2, 15-2 Big East) Saturday at the Petersen Events Center. Tipoff is at noon ET. The game marks Pitt's final regular season contest.
The Pitt-UConn contest will be nationally broadcast on CBS with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery calling action. Bob Mansbach will handle production, along with Suzanne Smith.
The matchup pairs each of the Big East's top two winningest programs of the 21st Century. Both programs have spent time this year as the nation's No. 1 ranked team. Since the 2001-02 season, Pitt has compiled the Big East's best overall winning percentage (.800, 216-54), while Connecticut ranks second (.773, 204-60). Over that same time period, UConn currently owns the Big East's best league winning percentage (.732, 96-35), while Pitt a close second and just one game behind (.725, 95-36). During that period, Pitt has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances, while UConn has made six. Both schools rank among the nation's top-six programs with NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances in the last seven years. The two schools have also met in three of the last seven Big East Championship Finals. Over the series' last 10 games, the series is tied at 5-5.
Pitt has the opportunity to defeat the No. 1 ranked team for the second time in a season. According to the Associated Press, that has happened eight times in NCAA Division I college basketball history. Earlier this year, Pitt defeated No. 1 ranked UConn 76-68 on Feb. 16, 2009 in the two team's first matchup. That victory marked Pitt's first-ever win against a No. 1 ranked team. Pitt enters today's game with a 1-13 all-time record vs. the nation's No. 1 ranked team.
The matchup marks the second game in Petersen Events Center history featuring two top-5 teams. The last time two top-5 teams met at the PEC was on Feb. 15, 2004 when No. 4 Pitt defeated No. 5 Connecticut, 75-68. It marks the 11th game in the seven-year history between two top-25 ranked teams.
Pitt enters the game after having won nine of its last 10 contests. At 14-3, Pitt is currently in third place in the Big East standings trailing No. 1 Connecticut (15-2) and No. 2. Louisville (15-2). Villanova (12-5) and Marquette (12-5) are tied for fourth place. Pitt has already clinched a two-day bye for the Big East Tournament. It can finish as one of the top-three seeds. A win today would give Pitt a share of the Big East regular season title. A Pitt win coupled with a Louisville loss at West Virginia Saturday night would give Pitt the No. 1 seed. A Pitt win and Louisville win would give Pitt the No. 2 seed. A Pitt loss leaves the Panthers as the No. 3 seed.
A win would give Pitt a school-record 15th Big East victory. Pitt set the record with its 14th win against Marquette on Wednesday. A victory would also give Pitt's senior class of Tyrell Biggs, Levance Fields and Sam Young a school record 109 wins from 2005-09. The school record is a 108 wins set by the 2004-05 senior class of Chevon Troutman and Mark McCarroll. The current class has a 108-29 record.
Pitt has won 20 or more overall games and 10 or more league games for the eighth consecutive season. Pitt is the only Big East program to win 20 overall games and 10-plus league games in each of the last eight seasons. Jamie Dixon became the first head coach in school history to win 20-plus games in six straight years.
Pitt continues to the lead the nation in Ratings Percentage Index according to realtimepri.com. Pitt's strength of schedule is ranked No. 12 nationally. Pitt is No. 1 in RPI at .6716, Duke is No. 2 at .6663, North Carolina is No. 3 with a .6561 mark and Oklahoma is No. 4 at .6515.
Through its first 30 games, Pitt has outscored its opponents by a plus-15.0 margin and outrebounded its opponents by a plus-10.7 margin. The Panthers are also converting 48.7 percent (888-1825) of their field goal attempts and limiting opponents to 41.1 percent shooting. Pitt has also held 24 of its 30 opponents to 70 points or less and 11 teams to 60 points or less. Pitt is ranked among the nation's top-10 teams in five statistical categories (as of March 1, 2009). As a team, Pitt ranks first nationally in rebound margin (10.5), ranks second in assist:turnover ratio (1.52), third in winning percentage (89.3), sixth in both assists per game (17.9) and scoring margin (15.1). The Panthers also rank 16th in turnovers per game (11.8) and 22nd in field goal percentage (48.1).
Several Pitt players are also ranked among national leaders in various statistical categories (as of March 1, 2009). Levance Fields leads the nation in assist:turnover ratio (3.98) and ranks third in assists per game (7.4). DeJuan Blair ranks third nationally in rebounding (12.7) and leads the nation in offensive rebounds with 5.8 orpg according to StatsLLC (Note: the NCAA does not rank top offensive rebounders). He is also ranked No. 16 in field goal percentage (59.7). Sam Young is rated 97th in field goal percentage (49.9) and 67th in scoring (18.0).
No. 3 Pitt enters the game after having won nine of its last 10 games. Pitt's recent six-game win streak in league play ranked among the school's top-5 win streaks in Big East play.. It bounced back from an 81-73 loss at Providence on Feb. 24 with an 89-78 win at Seton Hall on Saturday. Sam Young scored a game-high 29 points and Pitt claimed the win despite committing 23 turnovers on the evening. Pitt then defeated No. 13 Marquette 90-75 on Wednesday behind 23 points from DeJuan Blair, 18 from Sam Young and 17 and 10 assists from Levance Fields. Pitt shot 63 percent from the floor and outscored the Golden Eagles 21-2 over a seven-minute second half span for the win.
Pitt is in its seventh season in the Petersen Events Center and carries a 114-10 all-time record and .920 winning percentage in the building. The .920 winning percentage ranks among the nation's best home court records over the last seven years (see chart page 8). Pitt has won 53 of its last 62 Big East home games and is 48-9 against Big East opponents in the Petersen Events Center. Louisville is the only opponent to defeat Pitt two different times in the Petersen Events Center on Feb. 24, 2008 (75-73 decision). Pitt also owns a 66-1 record vs. non-conference opponents in the Petersen Events Center. Pitt has also won 87 of its last 89 home games against regular season non-conference opponents.
At home, Pitt is currently riding a 20-game home win streak and owns an 18-0 home record. The 20-game home win streak ranks as the nation's third longest behind Kansas (40) and Utah State (33). It concluded its 2007-08 season with a 16-2 record and has won 34 of its last 36 home games.
A win would give Pitt its fourth all-time undefeated year at home. Pitt also was undefeated in 2002-03 (16-0), 1973-74 (13-0) and 1974-75 (10-0).
TODAY'S TOP STORYLINES
Pitt has won 20 straight home games and carries a 114-10 all-time record (.920 percentage) in the Petersen Events Center. Pitt also owns a 48-9 record vs. Big East opponents at the Petersen Events Center. With its 18-0 home record, Pitt is attempting to close out its home schedule with an undefeated record for the fourth time in school history.
Two top-5 teams meet for the second time in Petersen Events Center history. No. 4 Pitt defeated No. 5 UConn 75-68 on Feb. 15, 2004.
At 27-3 and 14-3, Pitt is the only Big East school to win 20 overall games and 10-plus league games in each of the last eight seasons. Dixon is the only Pitt coach in school history to win 20 or more overall games in six straight seasons.