Michigan certain to provide test for Pitt men's basketball team
The Pitt men's basketball team is hovering just out of the Top 25 in both major polls and would love to deliver an early statement to let the nation know last season was an aberration.
The Panthers get their chance tonight.
Pitt (4-0) will take on Michigan (3-0), the No. 4 team in both polls, tonight at 9:30 at Madison Square Garden. Beating a team of Michigan's caliber would certainly give Pitt an early, signature victory, but it won't be easy.
Michigan is enjoying its strongest revival in a decade and boasts some of the NCAA's most talented players.
“We'll see how good they are,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “And we'll see how good we are.”
Michigan's roster is filled with names familiar to basketball fans.
Starting shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and starting forward Glenn Robinson III are sons of former NCAA and NBA greats.
Freshman forward Jon Horford is the brother of Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford.
Hardaway and Robinson are Michigan's second- and third-leading scorers, respectively. Those two, along with standout point guard Trey Burke (18.3 points, 9 assists per game), give the Wolverines a potent core.
“They've got a lot of great players,” Pitt guard Tray Woodall said. “We're all aware of that.”
Michigan, through three games, is one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams.
“They do a lot of things very well,” Dixon said. “What makes them so good is their guards, and how experienced they are.”
In classic Pitt fashion, don't expect Dixon to alter his defense to stop Michigan's outstanding guards. Instead, Woodall and blossoming freshman James Robinson will be asked to stare down Burke and Hardaway.
“We're just going to defend,” Woodall said. “We're a better defending team this year. We're just going to defend and help each other. That's what we do. You've got to love playing against guys like that. These are potential NBA players, all-Americans.”
While the battle of guards should provide good theater, old rivals will be meeting on the sidelines. Dixon and Michigan coach John Beilein faced each other 11 times when Beilein coached West Virginia, with Dixon owning an 8-3 advantage in those games.
Of course, Beilein never was blessed with this kind of talent at West Virginia.
“It's taken him awhile to get the right guys there,” Dixon said. “Now they're a team that's ranked.”
Take down Michigan tonight, and Dixon can almost assuredly say the same of his team.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.