Pitt readies for Detroit star guard Ray McCallum
History and a player capable of carrying a team that has postseason aspirations will be working against Pitt on Saturday night at the Petersen Events Center.
But just as Detroit owns the series advantage over Pitt by virtue of a lone victory — and that came in 1970 in the Motor City Classic — its reliance on a star player also may be misleading when it comes to the Titans' chances of pulling an upset.
Pitt contained Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum, a likely NBA first-round draft pick, in an easy win last month. If the Panthers can do the same with Titans guard Ray McCallum Jr., they should continue to feast on a nonconference schedule that hasn't provided many challenges outside the state of Michigan.
Pitt's lone loss came to Michigan on the night before Thanksgiving, and Oakland took the host Panthers (6-1) to overtime before falling, 72-62, last month.
Take away those two games and Pitt has steamrolled its five other opponents by an average of 28.4 points.
McCallum is the caliber of player who can keep Detroit (2-3) close.
The 6-foot-3 junior led Detroit to the Horizon League title last season, and he is averaging 20.6 points per game.
He could have played at a higher-profile school but McCallum chose to suit up for his father, Ray, and help build a program rather than contribute to an established one.
The McCallums led Detroit to the NCAA tournament last season — it lost to eventual runner-up Kansas, 65-50, in the first round — and the Titans are more than just a father-son show.
Four Detroit players average in double figures, though the Titans will not be able to match Pitt's depth. They may also choose to pack the lane as Howard did last Tuesday and force Pitt to win the game from the outside.
“We have shooters all over the floor,” forward Lamar Patterson said.
They did against Howard as Patterson drained five 3-pointers to lead Pitt. The Panthers were outrebounded by Howard, and most of their points came from the perimeter.
Coach Jamie Dixon said he wants to see his big men be more assertive, particularly on offense.
“We have to get more putbacks, offensive rebounds against the zone,” Dixon said. “We just aren't active enough.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.