Fairleigh Dickinson (0-0) at (5) Pittsburgh (0-0)
Friday, November 14th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Petersen Events Center (12,500) -- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Television: None. Home Record: FDU 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Away Record: FDU 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Neutral Record: FDU 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Conference Record: FDU 0-0, Pitt 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The fact that the Pittsburgh Panthers are ranked fifth in the preseason AP poll speaks to their talent, and they will open the campaign tonight against the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The Knights are 5-58 all-time against current members of the Big East Conference, not exactly an encouraging stat heading into a game against a highly-ranked foe. Fairleigh Dickinson, which competes in the Northeast Conference, is 25-33 in season openers, and the club welcomes back a decent amount of talent from last season's squad.
As for Pittsburgh, its 2007-08 season ended with a double-digit loss to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for coach Jamie Dixon, he has a wealth of returning talent to work with. Clearly, there are many major tests awaiting the Panthers in Big East play, and it is important to start strong in this opener.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Fairleigh Dickinson and Pittsburgh on the basketball court.
The Knights are expected to start a pair of sophomores and three juniors tonight against Pittsburgh. While the lineup is void of senior leadership, many of the players have experience. The best player on the roster is guard Sean Baptiste, who showed tremendous improvement last season. Baptiste scored 18.5 ppg a year ago on 47.6 percent shooting from the floor, and he also ripped down 6.3 rpg. The 6-3 standout will not sneak up on opponents this season, as he is likely to face a few double teams. Cameron Tyler is another player to watch, as the junior guard played quite well in a recent exhibition win over New Haven. Tyler led the team with 17 points in that clash, and he has the ability to draw attention away from Baptiste. John Galvin and Alvin Moufunanya are expected to make contributions up front.
Junior forward Sam Young, one of two players to have started all 37 games for the Panthers in 2007-08, brings his energy and skill back for more and while it will be difficult to improve upon his 18.1 ppg, there's still some work that can be done in order to ensure that he can collect better than 6.3 rpg and continue to help out on the interior after posting 42 blocked shots. DeJuan Blair, a center who claimed a share of Big East Rookie of the Year honors, is only going to get better, which means the rest of the conference had best keep an eye on the big man because he has his sights set on increasing his scoring (11.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.1 rpg). Blair and Young will be tough to stop both tonight and all season long.
Expect the usual tough brand of basketball from Pittsburgh, which is expected to contend for the Big East title. The Panthers will cruise past Fairleigh Dickinson in this opener.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 73, Fairleigh Dickinson 51
11/14 10:44:06 ET