Tournament teams await Pitt on break

By Staff Report

After winning its first two games in the Legends Classic over the weekend, the Pitt men’s… After winning its first two games in the Legends Classic over the weekend, the Pitt men’s basketball team travels to Newark, N.J., Friday and Saturday for the semifinals and finals of the tournament. The No. 4 Panthers square off with Texas Tech Friday night and will play either Mississippi State or Washington State the next day. If Pitt wins, the winner of the Mississippi State-Washington State battle will match up with Pitt in the finals. But first, Belmont comes to the Petersen Events Center tonight at 7 p.m. for the last home game before the school breaks for Thanksgiving. The Pitt News breaks down the programs Pitt plays, or could play, in the next week. Belmont Senior guards Alex Renfroe and Andy Wicke rose into the spotlight in last year’s NCAA Tournament, when their Belmont Bruins came within a basket of knocking off heavily favored Duke. This year, the pair looks to do more than just scare an AP top-25 team when Belmont (1-1) plays Pitt (4-0) Tuesday night. The Panthers are the Bruins’ highest ranked opponent since the Blue Devils last March. And as a mid-major on the road facing a postseason contender in Pitt, Belmont once again finds itself an underdog. ‘We don’t have much to lose,’ said Renfroe. ‘But we look at this game as we would any other game. We want to win, and we are going to do the best we can do to achieve that.’ Renfroe, Wicke and the Belmont squad are no strangers to close games against big-time programs. In addition to Duke’s narrow 71-70 escape, Belmont defeated Cincinnati, 86-75, and upset Alabama, 85-83, on the road last year. Long-time coach Rick Byrd spearheaded Belmont’s growth into a powerful mid-major program. The Bruins earned their first ever NCAA Tournament bid in 2006, an automatic one after winning their conference tournament, and they have repeated the feat the last two years. -Greg Trietley Texas Tech While the Panthers have been playing extremely tenacious defense to start the year, they will have to face a Red Raider team that is currently averaging more than 108 points per game. Texas Tech (4-0) has five players scoring in double figures. Head coach Pat Knight recognizes that his team has an extremely balanced scoring attack and even thinks his team can look beyond the top five players for points. ‘Even though we have five players averaging double figures in points, we still have guys that are averaging seven or eight that can put up double figures on any given night,’ said Knight.’ The Panthers will have to pay special attention to Texas Tech’s premier player, Alan Voskuil, who is leading the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game. Voskuil hit a school-record eight 3-pointers in a 28-point effort against Eastern Kentucky last Saturday. Knight believes the matchup will be a challenging one and looks forward to see how his team responds. ‘My dad [former coach Bob Knight] thought last year that [Pitt] could win a national title,’ said Knight.’ ‘It’s going to be a great game. They play great man-to-man defense, and they’re very physical,’ he added. The Red Raiders have great confidence in their ability to run the fast break and hope to speed up the pace of the game in order to break down the Panthers defense.’ ‘ ‘ -Ben Duignan Washington State Washington State’s roster is a mix of youth along with experience. The Cougars have nine freshmen and four seniors this season, with only one sophomore and junior each. Head coach Tony Bennett said his freshmen have already gotten a chance to play a lot in the team’s three games this season because of their comfortable margin of victory in those contests. The team is known for its tough defense, limiting opponents to a mere 56.4 points per game last season. It already has held two teams to fewer than 35 points this season. Washington State (3-0) advanced to the Sweet 16 last season, defeating Winthrop and Notre Dame before losing to North Carolina. -Alex Oltmanns Mississippi State Mississippi State has gotten off to a hot start, with a 4-0 record. Each win has been a decisive victory. This season, the Bulldogs own victories over Centenary, Louisiana-Monroe, North Alabama and Farleigh Dickinson. The latter two wins were part of the Legends Classic regional rounds. Mississippi State’s current leading scorer is junior guard Barry Stewart. Stewart averages 14.5 points per game through the first four contests. The Bulldogs defense is anchored by junior center Jarvis Varnado, who leads the team in rebounding with an average of 13 per game. He is also averaging 7.8 blocks per game, which leads the NCAA. Mississippi State is coming off a successful year after it made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Bulldogs made it to the second round after beating Oregon and losing to eventual runner-up Memphis to finish with a record of 23-11. -Ravi Marfatia