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February 16, 2009, 11:40 AM ET
DeJuan Blair is Extra Super-Duper Important

by John Gasaway

I realize it’s beyond obvious to say that for Pitt to have a shot at knocking off number 1 Connecticut on the Huskies’ home floor tonight, DeJuan Blair will have to stay out of foul trouble. But allow me to say this:

For Pitt to have a shot at knocking off number 1 Connecticut on the Huskies’ home floor tonight, DeJuan Blair will have to stay out of foul trouble.

In the course of working up my piece on the most inconsistent teams in college hoops, I took a look at the Panthers’ performance on a game-to-game basis. To this point in the Big East season, Jamie Dixon’s team has been two different units: a very consistent (and pretty good, though not stellar) defense, and an incredibly efficient though fretfully inconsistent offense.

In fact, Pitt has the best offense the Big East has seen in a long while. And if you remember what Georgetown looked like on offense in 2007, you know that’s saying something.

Best Big East offenses, 2006-2009 
Conference games only, 2009 figures through games of February 15
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes     PPP: points per possession                                                            Pace    PPP    
1.  Pitt 2009          65.5    1.18   
2.  Notre Dame 2006    65.2    1.15
3.  Marquette 2009     69.0    1.14
4.  Georgetown 2007    59.4    1.14
5.  Notre Dame 2008    72.2    1.11
6.  Connecticut 2008   67.7    1.11
7.  Connecticut 2009   66.4    1.11
 

On paper this might be the most balanced offense we’ve seen since Chris Paul was at Wake Forest. Pitt does everything well: twos, threes, taking care of the ball, offensive rebounds–everything. 

It is also, however, an inconsistent balanced offense. Moreover the inconsistency can be traced to one primary factor: Blair sitting on the bench with foul trouble, as he did in road losses at Louisville and Villanova. In those two games Pitt scored just 0.87 points per trip. In their ten wins, conversely, the Panthers have been literally unstoppable, recording 1.25 points per possession.

He’s that important. If Blair can just stay in the game tonight, the collision between this offense and the outstanding UConn defense should be well worth the price of admission.  

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