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THE BIG PREVIEW: No. 1 Virginia heads to Pitt

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The Hoos can clinch the ACC regular season title outright with a win.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Hoos took down one of the worst teams in the ACC (Georgia Tech is 13th in the standings, but 14th in KenPom rating). The game was much closer than expected, even though they eventually won by 11. Frankly, Virginia played just okay, and GT played very well (especially Ben Lammers). This time out, they’ll face the worst team in the ACC. Seriously, this isn’t in question. Pitt may be the worst ACC team ever. They are in danger of being the first team to finish 0-18 in conference. You may remember that Boston College was winless two years ago, but that was only 16 conference games). Pitt has already matched BC’s 0-16 record, and Pitt still has to play Notre Dame in South Bend. KenPom gives them an 89% likelihood of going winless.

Not surprisingly, considering the information in the above paragraph, this game looks like a mismatch on paper. Last year, Pitt managed to beat the Hoos in overtime in Pittsburgh. The Hoos also beat the Panthers twice last season, once at JPJ and once in the ACC Tournament. Last year’s Pitt team was decent (79th on KenPom), but Pitt lost their top five scorers via transfer and graduating. The 6th leading scorer, Ryan Luther, is out for the season with a stress fracture. He was the leading scorer when he went down, and was shooting 39% from three. He was the lone senior on the team, and his loss hurt what was already a pretty bad team.

With Luther out, the leading scorer is JUCO transfer Jared Wilson-Frame, at just under 13 points per game. Wilson-Frame is one of the most ball-dominant players in the country. He takes nearly a third of the team’s shots while on the floor and uses over 28% of the team’s possessions, but he’s shooting 37% from the field. He takes 60% of his shots from downtown and has made just 31% of them. Wilson is 6’5” 220 and plays both forward spots. He figures to see a lot of Devon Hall and DeAndre Hunter.

In fact, considering Pitt has pretty much zero size, I would expect Hunter to get quite a bit of run. Putting Hunter on Wilson-Frame allows Devon Hall to guard Parker Stewart. Stewart might be the best player on the roster. He’s averaging just nine points per game, but he’s shooting almost 40% from three. The problem is, that’s all he’s doing. He’s taken nearly 80% of his shots from downtown. If you’re looking for Stewart, look for big crazy hair. Here’s an example of what Stewart can do. This is actually a nice little play, with #23 (Shamiel Stevenson) making a pass from the wing to the top of key. He comes down and sets a screen on Stewart’s man. Stewart goes to the spot Stevenson was occupying and knocks down an open three.

With no interior presence, and no real threat off the dribble, the Panthers are often stuck taking bad three point attempts. They are one of the slowest offensive teams in the nation. Unlike, the Hoos, this does not seem to be strategic. They just aren’t capable of generating good scoring opportunities.

Pitt’s second leading scorer is freshman PG Marcus Carr. At 6’1” 185, Carr’s strength is actually going to the basket. He is actually very good at getting into the paint and creating shots for other people. He leads the team in assists by a wide margin. He can also shoot it a little bit, and is an outstanding FT shooter.

Stevenson, the screener in the above play, would battle with Stewart for title of best player on the team. He’s also a freshman, and he’s not a shooter like Stewart is. But at 6’6” 230 (and with a reported 6’11” wingspan) he’s got the size and strength to bang around inside and leads the team in rebounds (Luther is second, in just 10 games). Stevenson’s physicality means he’s very good at getting to the line. But he’s a poor FT shooter (just 60%). He can finish inside, and is also a capable defender.

Pitt’s best defender is 6’4” 195 pound Khameron Davis. Expect Davis to guard Kyle Guy. That’ll leave Carr on Ty Jerome, which is a matchup Jerome should take advantage of. Davis has very little offensive game, though he can knock down an open three if given space.

Up front, Pitt has a few options. The starter for most of the season has been 6’9” sophomore Kene Chukwuka. Speaking of guys with little offensive game, Kene has taken 44 threes this year and made just nine (20%) and is barely over 40% from the FT line. He can dunk, that’s about it. Behind Chukwuka is 6’10” freshman Terrell Brown. Brown also has very little offensive game, but he’s strong on the offensive glass and is an elite shot blocker.

Obviously, getting the No. 1 team in the nation on their home floor will pump up the Panthers and their fans. A win would make their season. Generally speaking, shooting a lot of three pointers is a good way to attack the Pack Line, but Pitt would have to make a very high percentage of contested shots in order to pull off the upset.