Champagnie and Pitt Basketball Take the Floor at Madison Square Garden Tomorrow

(Paul J. Bereswill/Getty Images)


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Tomorrow, the Pitt Panthers basketball team heads to the mecca, Madison Square Garden, to face off against the St. John's Red Storm in a matchup that will surely bring back some memories..  Not only did these two teams often clash as members of the Big East, but Madison Square Garden was the location of some special games in Pitt history.  

However, it's recent Pitt memories that will make this matchup special.  If you missed seeing a Champagnie take center stage during a Pitt game this year, you'll definitely want to tune in to this game at noon on Fox Sports 1.

Former Pitt standout forward Justin Champagnie elected to enter the NBA draft after last season with the Panthers, where he is now a member of the Toronto Raptors.  He was certainly the biggest standout star for Pitt last year and the loss of his scoring and rebounding prowess has been felt on the program this year.  But what some may not know is that Justin's twin brother, Julian, still plays in college and is a member of the Red Storm.  

While Julian will suit up in the red and white tomorrow, there is a world where he would've been playing this game in Pitt's blue and gold.  Both Champagnies intended to be Pitt basketball players at first.  However, after verbally committing, Julian decommitted just a week later, waiting to find the right fit for him.  It was at that point that St. John's hired now-coach Mike Anderson and the recruitment for Julian began.  A native of Queens, NY, it was an easy decision for him to stay at home and play for the Red Storm, and as they say, the rest was history.

That decision turned out to be a great one for Julian, as he has turned into one of the best players in the Big East.  As a sophomore last season, he earned First-Team All Big East honors and has kept up his stellar play this season.  There are a lot of similarities in the way Julian and Justin play the game.  While watching tomorrow, you may have some flashbacks of Justin last season.  They look alike, they play alike... the only difference this time will be Pitt fans rooting against the Champagnie on the court.

This matchup features two teams heading in opposite directions.  As we know, it's been a tough year for the Panthers so far and Saturday will not be easy.  The Red Storm entered this season as a dark horse in the Big East and their play thus far has proved why so many were high on this team.  Their playing style will create difficulties for this Pitt team.  Not to mention, playing in such a hallowed arena in New York City can be tough for young players who have never experienced it before.

Averaging over 20 points a game this season, Champagnie is the star of St. John's.  But the team is full of players that are going to make this matchup difficult for the Panthers.  The Red Storm play fast offensively and are great at pressuring the ball defensively.  Those are two things that Pitt has struggled with this season.  Turnovers and poor transition defense have been issues for the Panthers and Saturday will undoubtedly bring those weaknesses to the forefront.  

For Pitt fans around my age, this game will no doubt be nostalgic.  Big East tournament battles in Madison Square Garden are some of my fondest Pitt sports memories and this will certainly have them flooding back.  It's unfortunate that the Champagnie is this game couldn't be in a Pitt uniform, but it will be nice to see one take the court once again, even if it is for the opposing side.

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