Game Preview: Pitt Basketball vs. Saint Francis (PA) – November 25, 2020 – 7pm

Hello Pitt fans, and welcome to the forums for our first live game thread of the early season, as Pitt (0-0, 0-0) squares off with Saint Francis (PA) (0-0, 0-0) at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Wednesday night, in Pitt’s 2020-21 season opener.

It’s great to have Pitt hoops back on Thanksgiving-eve, and to do our first live game thread since the ACC tournament this past spring. This is sure to be a weird basketball season, and with the unpredictability of COVID, we likely won’t know who is available (or unavailable) for Pitt (or their opponent) with much advance notice. I expect that some games will be cancelled throughout the year, and maybe several games; I also expect that Pitt will play some games with notable absences. We’ll have to take that day-by-day.

With that being said, it’s great to be back talking Pitt hoops, and without further ado, here’s your game preview for the season opener. Tonight’s game will be broadcast at 7pm EST on AT&T SportsNet. And make sure to drop by the live game thread on the message board to talk Pitt hoops during the game!

Fast Facts

*Pitt is 29-0 all-time against the Red Flash, having won each contest dating back to 1972-73. Their most recent matchup came in 2011-12 when no. 15 Pitt beat Saint Francis (PA) by a score of 71-47.
*Out of the 29 games that the teams have played against one another, only five have been decided by fewer than 10 points. The most recent of these games occurred in 1990, when no. 13 Pitt beat Saint Francis (PA) 91-85. The Panthers have won every game since by 14 or more points.
*One name that Pitt fans might recognize: Luke McConnell, Director of Basketball Operations for the Red Flash, is the cousin of Pittsburgh native, Duquesne basketball alum, and current Philadelphia 76er T.J. McConnell.

Saint Francis (PA) Background:

The Red Flash have had several nice years in a row under ninth-year head coach Rob Krimmel. Krimmel inherited a Saint Francis team which had won just six games in 2011-12, and by the 2016-17 season, he had built a formidable and competitive squad in the Northeast Conference. Saint Francis won 22 games last year, has had a better-than-.500 conference record in each of the past four years, and has won 75 games dating back to 2016-17.

However, despite the fact that this program is headed in the right direction, the 2020-21 team could experience some growing pains, as they enter the season having graduated their top two scorers from a year ago–Isaiah Blackmon (18.8 ppg, 41.2% from three) and Keith Braxton (17.6 points per game).

The losses of Blackmon and Braxton are huge for the Red Flash, as those two players averaged 36.4 points, 27.2 field goal attempts (10.3 from three-point range), 9.2 free throw attempts, 12.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. They shot a very respectable 45.7% combined, including 37.7% from three, and 83.2% from the free throw line.

In comparison, Saint Francis returns four players who averaged greater than 10 minutes per game last season. They return just one who averaged 20+ minutes per game–junior forward Myles Thompson, who averaged 25.6 minutes per game and started 31 of the team’s 32 games. Those four returning contributors last season averaged 31.1 points, 23.8 field goal attempts (4.4 from three-point range), 7.9 free throw attempts, 15.2 rebounds, and 4.2 points per game. Those players shot 47.0% combined, including 31.7% from three, and 67.2% from the free throw line.

It goes without saying that they have to find a player (or two, or three) to replace a massive amount of scoring and production from those two seniors, and I expect that it will take some time for those players to emerge. As a result, I do expect that Pitt’s defense will stifle Saint Francis as the Red Flash try to find their floor general.

Players to watch:

Saint Francis (PA) – Myles Thompson

As mentioned above, Thompson is Saint Francis’ only returning player who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season. He’s also their only returning player who averaged 10 points