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4-1-Zoo: Previewing Pitt at Villanova

(AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

(AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)

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PITTSBURGH —No. 4 Pitt travels to Philadelphia to play No. 9 Villanova in yet another marquee Big East game. Here’s the breakdown…

STORYLINE

Once again, two Big East teams in the AP top 10 square off in a pivotal game as far as the conference championship conversation goes. No. 4 Pitt (22-2, 10-1 Big East) leads the rest of the conference by two games and can put itself in even stronger position to win the Big East with a victory at No. 9 Villanova (19-5, 7-4).

On the flip side, the Wildcats desperately need a win to stay within reach of the leaders. With four conference losses, Villanova sits in a tie with No. 11 Georgetown and is three games behind Pitt and one game behind No. 8 Notre Dame.

The Wildcats come in with a full lineup while Pitt is still without leading scorer, Ashton Gibbs.

SCOUTING REPORT

Villanova is a guard-dominant team, which fits their equation for success over the last few years. Two senior guards lead the way for the Wildcats — Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes.

Fisher leads the team in scoring, averaging 16 points a game, and has a knack for causing trouble on the defensive end with 40 steals so far this season. Stokes averages 14.6 points per game and is very dangerous behind the arc. He’s also a deadly free throw shooter.

In the front court, Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou combine to average nearly 15 rebounds a game. Pena averages 10 points a game and Yarou puts in another nine.

PLAYER TO WATCH

Corey Stokes. The kid can do it all when the ball is in his hands. He’s the most dangerous on the team from 3-point range, shooting 43 percent, and if you put him on the line he’s automatic. He stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 220 pounds — an impressive frame.

With Ashton Gibbs out, Pitt will have added pressure on its guards to defend Stokes. You could add Pitt guard Travon Woodall in to this category, because he will have to shoulder a lot of the load just as he did in Morgantown on Monday.

KEY MATCHUP

Pitt’s guards against Villanova’s guards.

That will almost always be the case when these two teams play. It now takes an even larger importance with Gibbs out. Gilbert Brown matches up well size-wise against ‘Nova’s Stokes, so you’d have to imagine they will see time against each other.

Woodall will need to protect the ball and make smart decisions, while Brad Wanamaker likely will need to run the offense at times and score (he has only scored in double figures three times in the last seven games).

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog
Twitter.com/Chris_Gates
Chris.Gates@cbsradio.com