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StLouHoo's Preview:

Panther Party

Pittsburgh Panthers

Virginia has one last game against the ACC's bottom tier before facing an uphill climb into the postseason. Pittsburgh brings an 11 game losing streak to Charlottesville, though at times they've found ways to be competitive against good teams. But do they have any chance of being competitive against the Hoos?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, March 2nd, 2:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA
TV:Raycom / ACCNE

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:
TAPE:Ranks Pitt #105, predicts a 70-51 UVA win, 96% confidence
KenPom:Ranks Pitt #91, predicts a 71-51 UVA win, 97% confidence

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#1 Xavier Johnson, 6-3 190, FR
30 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 39 3P%
SG#2 Trey McGowens, 6-3 185, FR
28 mpg, 11.8 ppg, 1.8 apg, 30 3P%
SF#4 Jared Wilson-Frame, 6-5 220, SR
30 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 41 FG%
PF#5 Au'Diese Toney, 6-6 210, FR
25 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 35 FG%
C#21 Terrell Brown, 6-10 230, SO
19 mpg, 6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 45 FG%
Key Reserves
G#11 Sidy N'Dir, 6-3 180, SR
20 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 1.9 apg, 22 3P%
G#13 Khameron Davis, 6-4 200, SO
13 mpg, 2.5 ppg, 0.3 apg, 31 3P%
F#3 Malik Ellison, 6-6 215, JR
21 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 45 FG%
C#15 Kene Chukwuka, 6-9 225, JR
17 mpg, 3.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 50 FG%

 

The ABC's of Pittsburgh:

A) New season, new coach, same struggles. Jeff Capel became the 3rd Panther coach in the last 4 seasons after the brief, expensive, disastrous tenure of Kevin Stallings left Pitt winless in the ACC last year. Capel inherited a roster bereft of ACC-level talent, especially once most of the few promising incumbents (Ryan Luther, Marcus Carr, and Parker Stewart) left town in the turnover. As bad as Stallings was with X's and O's and managing his players, he may have been even worse as a recruiter, filling the roster with 2-star talents for the sake of warm bodies that Capel was left to deal with. Now, to Capel's credit, he hasn't thrown them under the bus like Georgia coach Tom Crean did with his inherited players. But all the same, Capel quietly let guys like Shamiel Stevenson and Peach Ilegomah walk away after the 1st semester while finding ways to live with the remaining incumbents. The rebuild will be a long one, but for the time being they're still at the bottom of the ACC, both in terms of record and in the metrics.

B) They're freshmen-led. The new coach got off to a good start when he brought in three promising young guards last summer as his first recruiting class: Johnson, McGowens, and Toney. He's clearly invested in them because he's given them the keys to the car since the minute they arrived. Johnson and McGowens have started every game this year, and Toney has started all but 4. They, along with senior Wilson-Frame, are the highest-usage players on the roster, clearly having leap-frogged most every player Capel inherited. With that said, none of them are Top 50, sure thing freshmen types, and while they've been given a perpetual green light, they far too often look and play like freshmen. None of them have an ORtg over 100 in ACC play (for contrast, ever rotation Hoo other than Clark does), Toney's is in the 70s. Capel is probably just letting them play through the freshman lumps in the hope it better prepares them for next year.

C) They're just not good at scoring. It's more than their being the ACC's 13th ranked offense. It's how they got there. They're bad shooting 3's (12th at 30.6%), bad at shooting 2's (14th at 43%). They can't even make their FTs consistently (14th at 67.4%). Their buoyed somewhat by their ability to draw FTs and gather offensive rebounds (more on those in the Keys below), but when it comes to the basic skill of shooting a field goal attempt and making it, Pitt is bad at it across the board. Of the starters, only senior wing Wilson-Frame has an eFG% north of 50%. Everyone else is purely a volume scorer at best.

 

Their Season To Date

Pitt is 12-16 on the season, 2-13 in ACC play. They scored surprising wins over Louisville and Florida State (both at home) in early January, but have since gone on an 11-game losing streak, and are 0-7 on the road in conference play. Most recently they lost to Clemson by 14 on Wednesday at home, going down by as many as 26 early in the 2nd half.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Don't put them on the FT line. Pitt's offense is bad at shooting, bad at ball security, overall just pretty bad. But what pops out is that they're #1 in the ACC in free throw rate, drawing shooting fouls at an astonishing rate. They've attempted at least 20 FTs in 10 different ACC games, and in their upset of FSU shot a sickening 46 FTAs (as an aside, fire the refs who blew that many whistles, that's bad for basketball). As Pitt's guards hurl themselves into the lane, it will be incumbent on UVA's defenders to ensure they challenge without making illegal contact. Trust in Pitt's bad shooting, and don't bail them out with whistles.

2) Ball security. The Panthers have forced double-digit TOs in nearly every ACC game so far, and in games they've won or at least been competitive, those numbers have been even higher (FSU committed 18 in a loss, Wake 18 in an OT win, and BC 16 in a single-digit win). The Panthers are 3rd in the ACC in defensive TO%, and if they're going to make life difficult on the Hoos this weekend, picking on our occasional ball security issues is likely how they'll do it. Hoo guards and bigs alike need to be conservative in how they move and handle the ball to ensure Pitt doesn't get any gifts here.

3) Control the glass. Pitt is a team with a bit of a bipolar rebounding mentality. Offensively, they crash the offensive glass hard and effectively (5th in the league), with wing-forwards Toney and Ellison solid complements to big men Brown and Chukwuka in this area. They'll miss a lot of shots, but UVA could help out Pitt's offense a lot if we're giving up 2nd looks, so keeping those active bigs off the glass will be an important task for our front line. On the other end of the floor, however, Pitt is the ACC's worst defensive rebounding team, with opponents grabbing over a third of their own misses. Part of this is their frequent use of zone schemes, otherwise its just being undersized at the 4, but the Hoos can use offensive rebounds to put a dagger in the Panthers if our bigs are up to the task of energetically chasing our misses.

 

 

Predictions:

This is a team that was down, on their home floor, by a score of 42-16 to Clemson on Wednesday night. Those wins over FSU and Louisville were a lifetime ago. They'll fight, sure, as at this point the only thing left to play for is a big upset to wash out the bad taste of a lost season. But nonetheless, this is a lost season for Pitt, and for a number of Panther players who definitely or probably won't be playing for Pitt next season (I expect a few non-Capel recruits to move on this spring), motivation may wane as the game wears on.

On Wednesday night, UVA was able to do what it was supposed to do, and that's jump out quickly on a bad opponent (Georgia Tech) and put the game away in the first half. That's about focus and energy at the opening tip, and it's a mentality the Hoos need to lock in going into March, where good starts take on increased importance. I'll be looking for UVA to do the same this weekend to an over-matched Pitt.

Time for the Hoos to find that March gear.

Hoos Win 75-48