Pitt vs Clemson Preview
By: Ian Meisner
The Pitt Panthers (16-3, 5-2 ACC) travel down to Clemson face the Tigers (12-7, 5-2 ACC). The Tigers have played four consecutive games against ranked opponents, and are 3-1 in those games, dropping their last contest against Virginia. The Tigers are undefeated at home in ACC play.
The Panthers are 2-2 over their last four games, winning games against Boston College and Florida State while dropping games to NC State and a then No. 21 Louisville.
Both teams are 5-2 in ACC play and have had their fair shares of ups in downs all season. Pitt is still searching for a signature win over a top 25 team, whereas Clemson has already proven they can play tough basketball against some of the best teams in the country. The big matchup to watch this game will be Michael Young vs. Jaron Blossomgame, who is one of the most athletic and dynamic players in the ACC primarily known for his ability to throw down outrageous dunks while still being able to step out and shoot the three ball at a high percentage. On the other side, Young is arguably the most valuable player on Pitt’s roster, who at times can finish the ball around the rim at extremely high clips. Young is going to have to play smart, strong defense without fouling if the Panthers want to get back on track in conference play. Young may have some trouble guarding Blossomgame on the perimeter, so expect a ton of help defense from the Panthers which will give Clemson’s Donte Grantham open looks from three-point range.
As of late, the Panthers have struggled to score with the same consistency they showed earlier this season. If Pitt wants to take this game from an RPI 100 team, they’re going to need to shoot the ball at a high percentage. Jamel Artis and James Robinson have been streaky shooters as of late, with Robinson especially taking bad shots at bad times. Look to see Robinson stepping back into more of a facilitator role against Clemson, as Coach Jamie Dixon should focus on getting open shots for guys like Sterling Smith and Cameron Johnson on the perimeter. Chris Jones should be involved too, as he’s been playing solid defense and creating points in the paint off of the dribble drive.
The edge Pitt has in this game is their depth, as Clemson is a team that’s only six or seven guys deep. With the probable return of Sheldon Jeter and growing minutes for Ryan Luther and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, Pitt has plenty of big bodies to absorb some fouls and hopefully keep Artis and Young out of foul trouble.
Prediction: Clemson has been electric at home, and although Pitt has won notable games against Florida State and Notre Dame on the road, their sloppy defense in the interior and their inability to finish the ball the last two weeks doesn’t bode in their favor. After rallying to come back from trailing all game against Florida State on Saturday, I expect the Panthers to keep this game close, but I don’t expect them to hand the Tigers their first home loss in conference play.
Clemson 82, Pitt 77
By: Jack Merlino
After roaring out to a 15-1 start Pitt has dropped 2 of their last 4 to fall to 16-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC, which puts them in the conference with Clemson.
It’s been a bizarre season for Clemson thus far, in the sense that they’ve earned some key victories against ranked opponents like Duke, Miami, and Louisville, and debilitating losses against teams like Alabama and UMass. It should suffice to say that there is no obvious prediction for this game.
This year, Pitt has seen the emergence of Michael Young as the team leader in points and assists per game. They’ll need him to continue his excellent play if they want to keep Jaron Blossomgame‘s game from blossoming. Blossomgame is averaging 16.4 points per game, but is particularly lethal from behind the arc, where he sports a .429 shooting percentage.
Clemson 72, Pitt 60
By: Roger SinClair
Coming off a less than inspiring victory over Florida State on Saturday, Pitt looks to get a win against a tough ACC opponent in Clemson. Despite a road loss to Virginia last Tuesday, Clemson’s previous 3 wins were against ranked Louisville, Duke and Miami teams. The common denominator in those games was that all were played at Bon Secours Wellness Center. Pittsburgh scooted by Florida State after overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit. Sheldon Jeter missed last game after getting a concussion in practice. Jeter is expected to play, which is a good sign after Ryan Luther and Cam Johnson were asked to eat up some of Jeter’s minutes. Pitt’s bench averages 28.5 PPG, which is best in the ACC. Sheldon Jeter and Chris Jones arguably make the biggest contributions, but the efforts that Luther and Johnson put forward on Saturday was promising. Rafael Maia will have a tough test, as once again Pitt does not possess the size advantage. Center Landry Nkoko, who has started all 19 of the Tigers’ games, will be the catalyst for Clemson’s rebounding efforts. Defensively, the Panthers must be worried. In their win against FSU, the Seminoles shot 53.7% from the field. Clemson Forward Jaron Blossomgame is shooting over 50% this season and could give the Panthers trouble. Last game I picked Pitt to win a high scoring game where the Panthers wouldn’t have much of a footing. I have no reason to pick against the Panthers in this game. With Jeter returning, the Panthers will get some more bench production. Pitt takes the momentum from the comeback victory against FSU and earns another hard fought win.
Pitt 73, Clemson 69