ACC Tournament: Pitt vs. N.C. State Preview
By: Joe Rokicki
The Pitt Panthers (19-13, 8-10 ACC) begin postseason play on Wednesday night against the N.C. State Wolfpack (19-12, 10-8 ACC) in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
Pitt lost their opening match in conference play to the Wolfpack in Raliegh back on January 3rd by 18 points – the worst loss of the season for the inconsistent Panthers, who enter the ACC Tournament amidst a three game losing streak.
The 2014-2015 season has been a roller coaster ride for a young Panther team. Pitt collected marquis home victories over Notre Dame, Syracuse, and North Carolina, as well as debilitating road losses down the stretch against Wake Forest and Florida State.
Under the microscope, tonight’s matchup heavily favors the 7th seeded Wolfpack who hold an advantage of the Panthers in rebounding margin, opponents’ field goal percentage, and points per game. In the ACC, the Wolfpack rank among the top 5 in each department; the Panthers: 9th, 15th, and 15th respectively. However, the Panthers are 4th in the ACC in turnover margin, but only average 67.3 points per game. In other words, Pitt has played a pretty conservative offense, able to maintain possession. The Panthers have simply struggled to score, as well as stop the opposition.
North Carolina State comes into the ACC Tournament as winners in five of their last six games, the Panthers an even split in that same stretch. The Wolfpack have a similar resume with key victories over ranked opponents, such as Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina (the latter two came on the road). N.C. State ranks 4th in the ACC in points per game (70.6) and is led by guards Trevor Lacey (16.1 PPG) and Cat Barber (11.8 PPG). The Wolfpack are 6-1 when Lacey scores 20 or more points this season. Sophomore guard Cat Barber has improved tremendously over the course of the season and enters tonight’s contest shooting 48.4% from 3-point range over the last nine games. Senior guard Ralston Turner ranks second in the ACC in 3-pointers made and poses as a serious threat beyond the arc. As a team, the Wolfpack are shooting 36.4% from three, which ranks 4th in the ACC. Furthermore, Barber has 107 assists on the year; 71 have gone to Lacey and Turner.
It’s safe to assume the Panthers’ defensive struggles will carry over against a prolific offense in the Wolfpack. However, if the Panthers are able to hang with the Wolfpack offensively, this matchup could become quite the shootout. Pitt is capable of such a high intensity game, as shown in a momentous home victory against North Carolina. But it just might be too little, too late.
Tip-off is at 7 pm. Pre-game begins at 6:30 pm on WPTS Radio.
Prediction: N.C. State 83 Pitt 72