StLou's Previews: Pittsburgh Panthers
#1 Virginia hits the road to face down the ACC's cellar dwelling Panthers, looking to continue tuning up for postseason play. Will a desperate Pitt be capable of threatening an upset to salvage their season?
Date/Time: Saturday, Feb 24th, 4:00 PM Eastern
Location: Peterson Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA
What 'They' Say
|Vegas:||Virginia -20, O/U 117.5|
|TAPE:||Ranks Pitt #236, predicts a 71-48 UVA win, 98% confidence|
|KenPom:||Ranks Pitt #231, predicts a 63-45 UVA win, 94% confidence|
|PG||#5 Marcus Carr, 6-1 185, FR|
|29 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 4.2 apg, 34% 3P%|
|SG||#13 Khameron Davis, 6-4 195, FR|
|23.7 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 1 apg, 40% 3P%|
|SF||#0 Jared Wilson-Frame, 6-5 220, JR|
|27.9 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 1.6 apg, 31% 3P%|
|PF||#1 Parker Stewart, 6-5 190, FR|
|25.9 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 0.9 apg, 39% 3P%|
|C||#15 Kene Chukwuka, 6-9 215, SO|
|17.3 mpg, 2.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 36% FG%|
|#2 Jonathan Milligan, 6-2 170, SR|
|17.1 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 1.4 apg, 23% 3P%|
|F||#23 Shamiel Stevenson, 6-6 230, FR|
|23.8 mpg, 8.9 ppg, 1 apg, 40% 3P%|
|F/C||#21 Terrell Brown, 6-10 240, FR|
|16.6 mpg, 4.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 42% FG%|
The ABC's of Pitt:
A) This is a program in freefall. Kevin Stallings arrived at Pitt in the summer of 2016 after an underwhelming tenure at Vanderbilt, and many thought this was a poor hire at the time; thus far they've been proven right. After acheiving only a 4-14 ACC record in year 1 with a solid senior-laden roster inherited from Jamie Dixon, he spent last March and April running off basically the entire remainder of Dixon's players, booting young PG Justice Kithcart, and watching Cam Johnson, Roselle Nix, Corey Manigault, and Damon Wilson transfer out. Rising senior stretch 4 Ryan Luther returned, and he was actually a solid player to build around, but he played only 10 games before being lost for the year to injury. That left basically the entire rotation to newcomers, an unprecedented level of roster turnover, even for a coaching change. A grad transfer (Boykins), a JUCO (Wilson-Frame), a traditional transfer (Chukwuka), and 7 largely questionable freshmen (starting PG Marcus Carr the lone 4-star among them) joined the team this year. It's gone about as poorly as you can imagine. They've had 15 different starting lineups, rank at the bottom of the ACC in multiple statistical categories, and have been abandoned by their fans (they drew only 2,800 fans to their BC game last week). Stallings is already on the hot seat in only his second year.
B) Jared Wilson-Frame is the highest usage player in the ACC. The JUCO transfer was handed the keys from Day 1, and despite not being terribly efficient, has become the team's go-to shooter. He's first in the ACC in shot percentage, taking 34.7% of Pitt's shots, but despite leading the team in 3PA's (over 7 3PA a game!), he's hitting only 29% of them. He does play a bit of a point-forward role, dishing 1.9 assists a game, but also gives up 2.6 TOs. The starting 3 will draw a combination of Hall and Hunter on defense, which should keep his efficiency low in this one.
C) They're running a 4-guard lineup. In the massive roster turnover, Stallings really only found two true big men to man the post, starter Chukwuka and reserve Brown. Once stretch 4 Luther went down, it solidified Pitt's move to a true 4-out rotation. Sliding into that small-ball 4 spot are starter Parker Stewart and backup Shamiel Stevenson. Stewart has actually been one of Pitt's best young players of late, as the only player with an offensive efficiency > 100 in ACC play (an enviable 111.9), and the most reliable deep ball threat, knocking down 44% from 3 on over 6 attempts a game. His pick-and-pop game must be respected, so watch for Pitt to try to exploit the hard hedge to get him fading away from the defenders into the corner for open 3s. Switching may be the preferred option here. Stevenson is similarly accurate from deep, though not on very high usage (8/14 from 3 in 16 ACC games), but still must be accounted for. Given Wilkins mobility issues of late, the sooner we can get one of Wilkins or Salt out, and Hunter or Mamadi in at the 4 spot, the better. The biggest stat for Pittsburgh I can find is that they lead the ACC in 3-point attempts, utilizing this 4-out offense to take a full 48% of their shots from deep, despite shooting a paltry 32.5% as a team. The absolutely last thing we can let them do is have an uncharastically hot shooting night; they must be challenged thoroughly.
Their season to date:
Pittsburgh is 8-21 on the season, 0-16 in the ACC. They haven't won a game since squeaking by Towson 63-59 before Christmas. They've played a few ACC teams close, however, losing to NC State by only 4, Syracuse by 5, and most recently Wake by 6 (it was a 2 point margin with 20 seconds left), all at home.
Keys to getting the win:
1) Attack the rim without mercy. In transition. Off post-ups. Through dribble-drives. Whichever. About the only think Pitt does well on defense is protect the 3-point line, holding opponents to around 34% from deep. They may opt to pack it in against us if they scout the VT loss for tips, but that doesn't change the math for me. We were able to use post-touches to generate good looks from 3 against GT and should attempt the same here. And if they stick to pressing the perimeter, then let them chase us off the line and attack the lane, either looking to score over their young big men or by dishing to our veteran bigs to finish. Pitt's giving up over 55% shooting at the rim, and we'd be fools not to try to cash in, especially given how poorly they block shots or strip ball handlers. Even better, more of our guys playing at the rim mean we're in better position to exploit Pitt's league-worst rebounding, as they allow O-Reb's on more than a third of opponent misses.
2) Get back to feasting off turnovers. We'd made our bones early in the year by using our defense to create turnovers (1st in the ACC in both TOs and live ball steals generated), and using that to feed our offense. The last few games, opponents have done a much better job of ball security; GT this week with only 6 TOs, VT in their win with 10, Syracuse at the Dome with only 7. When we can get steals, we're a great team, such as when we turned Duke over 16 times, or Clemson 19 times, the 1st GT game 18, or NC State 15. Part of this is opponents game planning for less ball movement, in theory meaning less opportunity for dangerous passes, and just relying on hero ball instead. But part of it feels like less aggression on our part, more "staying home" on defenders as opposed to anticipating passing lanes. I'd like to see us a little more proficient here this weekend, at a minimum creating 11 or 12 turnovers, and a handful of fast break points to go with it. This is going to need to be a key part of our profile in March.
3) Start fast and let the bench get burn. Similar to my key vs Georgia Tech, this is an ideal matchup to let the reserves stretch their legs and find a rhythm, maybe even moreso. Most anyone in our Top 10 is an upgrade over whoever Pitt is putting on the floor, and there's no reason our second unit can't play effectively in this game, not just protecting an early lead, but potentially stretching it. Getting them early, extended run in the first half will allow the starters to be fresh to put the game away between the end of the 1st half and the early minutes of the 2nd. As mentioned above, using Mamadi and Hunter at the 4 is going to be the better tactical move against their wing-4's as well, so let's not be afraid to find 20+ minutes for each of them (please, Mamadi, keep the fouls to a minimum in this one!) and let a clearly-hampered Wilkins rest as much as we can.
In the Pitts
Updated on February 23, 2018 by
Pittsburgh's team is so bad that in a computer simulation of a game against the 0-18 2016 Boston College Eagles, Pitt lost by 14 and only scored 34 points. One can only imagine what they would do against UVA if Tony Bennett coached with the soul of Rat Lord.
Remember what I said about the minutes I'd like to see Wilkins and Hall get Wednesday night? Didn't happen then, but it damn sure should be doable on Saturday. Pitt has no business being in the game with Virginia. The Cavaliers should score enough points in the first half to win the game. Nigel Johnson should be the senior with the most minutes. UVA has two real ACC games remaining, and this is not one of them.
As far as the metrics go, Pitt is on par with the likes of Lehigh (who we beat by 21) and Monmouth (by 20), and Austin Peay (by 44). They're dead last in the ACC in both offense and defense. They've played tight games at home against some low-to-mid-tier ACC squads, but any time the play a top team, it's gotten ugly (2 losses to Duke and a loss to UNC by 35, 27, and 31 respectively). The question is how sharp we play. This is absolutely a game we could win by 25+ if we're playing at peak, but that's a real question given the sort of flat effort we saw for lots of the GT game. If the team comes to Pittsburgh feeling entitled, sleep walking on defense, the Pitt does have a few horses that could keep them in it in Carr, Wilson-Frame, and Stewart. But if the team actually shows up looking to feast, looking to put Pitt out of its misery early with defensive focus and aggressive offense, then this should look like what we did in our first game at Virginia Tech.
The actual result is probably somewhere in the middle, not the fast start I'd truly prefer, but Pitt not able to keep within striking distance in the second half. Shut down their perimeter shooting game (resist the urge to over-help, guards!), and force them into errant ball movement, and we should be running away with this one in the second half.
Hoos Win - 70-52