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Posted at 9:42 AM ET, 11/18/2010

Sizing up the fifth-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers

By Liz Clarke

Picked by Big East coaches to finish first in the conference this season, the Pitt Panthers (3-0) return four starters and seven of their eight top scorers from last season’s 25-9 squad. And as Maryland (3-0) prepares for its first meeting with the team since 1998, it’s difficult to identify a weakness to exploit among the Panthers, who are balanced and experienced.

The back-court duo of Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker lead the scoring, with 19.3 points per game through the first three games. Gibbs is the older brother of Maryland recruit Sterling Gibbs, a 6-1 point guard from Seton Hall Prep in Scotch Plains, N.J., who signed his letter of intent earlier this week.

Rebounding is among Pitt’s strengths, and the responsibility is shared among several players—chief among them, 6-9 forward Talib Zanna, 6-9 reserve Dante Taylor, 6-11 center Gary McGhee and 6-6 forward Gilbert Brown. The Panthers’ dominance on the boards has made them particularly difficult to beat.

Pitt opened the season with an 83-75 victory over Rhode Island, then beat Illinois-Chicago, 97-54. In their 95-49 victory over North Florida, the Panthers grabbed a school-record 59 rebounds.

While none of Maryland’s players has competed at Madison Square Garden, it’s familiar and friendly ground for the Panthers, who have played 35 games there in the past decade and won the 2003 and 2008 Big East Championship titles at the venue.

Maryland holds a 5-1 edge in its series with Pitt, but it has been since November 1998 that the teams met.

By Liz Clarke  | November 18, 2010; 9:42 AM ET
Categories:  Gary Williams, Men's basketball  | Tags:  Ashton Gibbs, Maryland baskteball, Pitt Panthers, Pittsburgh basketball  
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Next: Ralph Friedgen to return as Maryland football coach in 2011

Comments

I think the Terps will win this one tight. Jordan Williams has to stay out of foul trouble, though, because he is due for a monster night against McGhee (who isn't half as skilled as J-Woww). PeShon and Stoglin seem like the kind of guys who relish playing under the big stage, I don't think they'll shy away at all.

Mosley really needs to turn things around offensively, but if he can stick with Wannamaker all night defensively, it'll be great for us. One more thing defensively, I really have to give it to Cliff Tucker. He's been huge for us. In the game vs. CoC, Gary made an adjustment in the 2nd half and put Tucker on Goudelock (who was killing Mosley) and Tucker shut him down. His length could go a long way in stopping Gibbs from getting off shots from beyond the arc tonight.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | November 18, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The basketball games tonight and tomorrow night in MSG involve four teams (Maryland, Pitt, Texas and Illinois) from four different major conferences. Here is a look at how they stack up.

Early in this season all four are undefeated, with only Maryland and Pitt having played any really competitive games. The Terps squeaked by COC and Pitt had a rough time before beating Rhode Island 83-75. Pitt is ranked 5th in the AP, Illinois 13th, Texas 26th and the Terps are tied for 43rd

Pitt, Illinois and Texas are all considered much stronger than last year. The Terps finished last year ranked 20th and it is uncertain that they will be as good as last year.

In looking at the programs, their performances in the last eight NCAA Tournaments show the following records: Texas has made all eight tournaments, 4 Sweet 16’s, 3 Elite 8’s and 1 Final 4. Pitt has made all 8 tournaments, 4 Sweet 16’s, and 2 Elite 8’s. Illinois has made 6 of 8 tournaments, 2 Sweet 16’s and, 1 Elite 8 and 1 Final 4. Maryland has made 5 of 8 tournaments and 1 Elite 8 (eight years ago, 2003).

Maryland is the only school to win a national championship.

Of the four programs, Pitt and Texas have been the strongest in recent years, Illinois is third and Maryland has been the weakest.

It’s early in the season, but winning one of two games in MSG would be a very good sign and a big improvement over last year’s start. Maybe we will win two!

Posted by: petecard | November 18, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Correction on Maryland's Elite 8... it was a Sweet 16 in 2003. Major typo!

Posted by: petecard | November 18, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Petecard, serious question here, do you still want Gary Williams booted from the university and replaced by Brenda Frese?

Also, do you still wish we hadn't sign such a "bum" as Jordan Williams?

Just curious.

Posted by: Barno1 | November 18, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Answering for Pete - I clearly recall him admitting he was wrong during the Terps run last BB season re: GW and separately and MUCH earlier in the season re: JW. Of course, didn't stop any re-posts of his previous negative comments.

This tournament has a great field and either way, the Terps will face two quality teams. If they win tonight, lock down any flammables in CP.

Me, I'll be listening on 105.7 as I have to pick up someone from Dulles this evening. Ouch. But the DVR is set and hopefully I'll be home in time to catch the end of the game.

Am looking forward to the posts from those that are going to MSG tonight.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | November 18, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, hgr. Another great post by Garo1. He always adds to the discussion. What actually did he say about tonight's game? Did I really call Jordan Williams a "bum?" Is that in context? I would like him to get better at free throws! :)

Posted by: petecard | November 18, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Pete -

actually you did. I mean call JW a bum. But that was before you saw him play. It was before the shattered backboard clip on youtube, which was enough to get my hopes up that the kid could play.

Context was probably trying to set off the KADs. It was wayyy back when a few folks thought me, you and Poopy were the same person.

I actually enjoyed your countdown to greatness last season. And I recall that Tucker's buzzer beater unleashed a flurry of negative reposts authored by you. The JW is bum note was in that mix as well.

Who knew JW would be so good - other than GW and JW himself? I thought JP would be further along at this point, but we'll need size tonight so maybe we'll see him step up along with BW and AP.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | November 18, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

In response to TFMA's all-caps rant on a previous string. I get it. We are allowed to root against a coach, player (or owner for those of us who are Skins and/or Orioles fans) and still be a fan of the team. Way back in my day at CP, a lot of folks hated Lefty and wanted to see him gone. And I mean prior to Bias' demise. I recall going to the UNC game at Cole in Winter 1984 with a buddy (who was at MC at the time) and watching four alums rant about how terrible Lefty was. They were screaming for Chuck (Driesell) to be inserted during the first half. If the Terps were to win, it would be despite Lefty. If they lost (they did that night) it was 100% because of Lefty. It happens. I never liked Joe Thiesman and I am a lifelong Redskins fan. I was relieved Riggo was the hero because I couldn't stand to hear Joe T yap. When Moseley set the record for most consecutive FGs in the pouring rain, Theisman grabbed the microphone out of his hands to answer a question when Moseley hesitated to answer, thus stealing the guys moment in the limelight. Never liked him. Still don't. And upon Jay Shroeder's first completion (a 50 yd STRIKE to Monk) I wasn't going to miss him and many of the guys watching the game around me were GLAD he was gone (because disliking Theisman was about as common as breathing). It happens. Never going to be a fan of Angelos or Snyder, but I want desparately to see both teams win.

And many of the folks who are criticizing Petecard and TFMA were singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" when Cerrato was finally canned. You can root for the team and not be a fan of individuals on the team, running the team, or owning the team and still be a fan.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | November 18, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

"When Moseley set the record for most consecutive FGs in the pouring rain, Theisman grabbed the microphone out of his hands to answer a question when Moseley hesitated to answer, thus stealing the guys moment in the limelight. Never liked him. Still don't."

HGR- That is an amazing story that I hadn't heard of before. Wish we had the video footage of this.

Posted by: Barno1 | November 18, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

It was so sad. A 40+ yarder in the driving rain with RFK shaking to beat the NYGs. Reporter asks Moseley one question, he answers. The follow-up question, he hesitated and Joe (who was bouncing like the annoying kid screaming "pick me, pick me" when the teacher asks for a volunteer) grabs to microphone and starts yammering. The look on Moseley's face was so confused and sad. We were at the game and taped it (on our brand new BETAMAX no less) and when we watched it, my mother said "How soon before the Redskins get a real quarterback?" My buddy the Dallas cowboy fan (who jumped on the Caps bandwagon later that year) always would bring up that moment when he felt the need to bash the skins. The betamax was brand new, and it was the ONLY THING we had on tape, so naturally, we watched it and re-watched it and re-watched it during the week.

In hindsight, I appreciate Theisman. He initiated clearing the air with Gibbs (who like most, probably did not like him) the year before. He organized team practices during the strike. When Art Monk got hurt, he worked one on one with Alving Garrett and Virgil Seay through the night to make sure they had their timing perfect. he was committed to winning and the following season was the League MVP. I actually think he belongs in the HOF, but I think because he is not instantly likable (or barely likable) and perhaps they'll look at the duration of his productive years and decide he did not perform at a high level for enough years. But yeah, he was instrumental for helping the franchise become a winner. But as many of my Caps Fans buddies will mention - he grabbed the microphone from Moseley during HIS shining moment.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | November 18, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I think tonight's game will be a good challenge for the Terps. I think in some areas we will be much better off than we would have last year against a top-tier Big East team, but we have likely regressed in others that would have given us a good chance. I really like that we have a more muscular guard corps this year that will enable us to be more physical with the heavy hitters than we could have even last year. I also like that Howard and Stoglin can both create their own shots (though they do so too early in the shot clock at times) in ways that only Greivis could last year. JW is obviously much better than he was this time last year, but because we really only have one great shooter (Tucker), we'll have difficulty spreading the floor and they will probably be able to collapse on JW. Should be an interesting game; if we can hit our free throws (hardly a guarantee), it should at least be close.

Posted by: stjerome03 | November 18, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

HughG, interesting comments. Have to say though that hearing about the Skins is very boring. Was that the last time they beat the Giants? Just kidding....

Hitting free throws would be nice. Taking better care of the ball would be very nice.

Posted by: petecard | November 18, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Pete,

I was not sold on GV at the beginning of last season. And there was no ONE performance that won me over. It was a stretch of beautiful basketball - basketball that only exists at the highest level of the college game, none at all in the pro game - early THIS YEAR where he won me over. Those first few ACC games, where GV proved himself a force on a consistent level and the team's passing was unbelievable where I became a GV fan. By the time the floor was mopped he was already beloved. We were good, JW was showing promise, and GV was leading the team to victories...and the wtf shots were falling. Opinions do change. And yes his jersey belongs in the rafters.

But I didn't think it a year ago.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | November 18, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Well, our free throw shooting in the first half (ofer) is killing us. Great defensive effort all around and we are taking care of the ball. The calls are largely going Pitt's way, but we NEED to make the FT's!

Posted by: petecard | November 18, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, the free throws are atrocious.

Posted by: SirPelleas | November 18, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Good sign the Terps hung in there with the #4/5 team in the country and woulda/coulda won if they made free throws. Maybe time for JW to try Rick Berry style. MD fans in the Garden did themselves proud from what I could hear on espn.

Nobody's posted yet about the AD saying Fridge will be back next year?

Posted by: MrScrotums | November 18, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

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