ORLANDO, Fla. — There are plenty of experts who offer their opinion on games in the NCAA tournament, but when it comes to breaking down the Pitt-Florida matchup today, Albany coach Will Brown has more insight than just about anyone else.
That’s because Brown has had to game-plan for and play against Pitt and Florida this season, so he has watched countless hours of both teams and has seen them play from the best seat in the house.
“If Pitt handles Florida’s pressure and it becomes a half-court game, that could be the most physical game you’ll see in the NCAA tournament this year,” said Brown, who is a good friend of Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “I think whoever can score the ball the easiest in that game is going to win. I do think Florida’s pressure allows them to get some cheap turnovers, which will translate into easy baskets.
“I think Pitt is really good and Jamie is one of the best coaches in the country. Florida is playing the best in the country right now. But this is going to be a great game, I think, a lot closer than many people think.”
Pitt beat Albany, 58-46, Dec. 31 at Petersen Events Center and the Gators beat the Great Danes, 67-55, Thursday in the second round.
Robinson and Donovan
Pitt point guard James Robinson has moonlighted for USA Basketball the past two summers and his coach both years was Florida’s Billy Donovan.
Donovan coached Robinson in 2012 and 2013 for the USA Under-18 Team that won gold medals at the FIBA Americas Championships in Brazil and the FIBA World Championships the next year in the Czech Republic.
Robinson and Donovan said the experience and the chance to work with each other was extremely positive.
“[Robinson] is a winner,” Donovan said. “He is a guy that makes big plays, big shots, he comes up with loose basketballs, steals. He’s got a great IQ for the game. He is a really, really solid point guard and a great kid. I really enjoyed being around him for the two summers I was with him.”
Robinson said Donovan “wants his point guards to be the leader on the court. … He is really intense. I remember when we would be beating teams really badly and he would still want us to execute and be sound in what we did. That’s why he’s successful.”
Young on Young
Florida forward Patric Young is one of the most physically imposing players in the tournament at 6 feet 9, 240 pounds. But that weight is likely not quite accurate as his physique compares favorably to the Incredible Hulk.
But Pitt freshman forward Michael Young, who will be responsible for handling Patric Young in the post, is not overly impressed or intimidated and believes the Panthers will be more than up to the task.
“I’m on him,” Mike Young said of Patric Young. “He’s a big kid but I’m physical myself, so it will be a good game. Nothing to worry about. I don’t think he’s that skilled, just physical and strong so it is something we’ve dealt with before.”
A reporter asked Cam Wright if there was a “gosh, wow thing, where you go [Florida] just looks incredible and there’s no way we can compete with them.” Wright, baffled by the question, answered “Next question, please.”… One of Robinson’s teammates on the USA Basketball teams was Florida guard Michael Frazier. … Donovan was one of the coaches that reached out to Dixon in 2006 when Dixon’s sister, Maggie, died of a heart complication. … Despite being injured, Durand Johnson is still the emotional leader of the Panthers and was asked what he has said to get them prepared for Florida. “I just asked [my teammates] how big is your heart? We are a tenacious team that won’t back down from anyone. And [Saturday], I’ll tell them that it’s time to show everybody.”… Dixon was asked what the core principles of Pitt basketball are. The two words he came up with are “toughness” and “unselfishness.”
Paul Zeise: email@example.com, 412-263-1720 Twitter @paulzeise.