By now, you probably know that the Pittsburgh Panthers are the nine-seed in the South Region, and will face the eight-seeded Colorado Buffaloes on Thursday at 1:40pm EST on TBS at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. Let's take a look at both team’s respective schedules and general statistics to see how similar and/or different the Panthers are from the Buffaloes.
Schedule (Against AP Top-25):
Colorado (AP Top-25) - 2 Wins (Kansas, Oregon) and 6 Losses (Baylor, Ok St., Arizona (3x), UCLA).
Pitt (AP Top-25) - 1 Win (UNC) and 4 Losses (Syracuse (2x), Duke, Virginia)
*Based on when both teams played.
Against Top-50 RPI:
Colorado (RPI, ranked 32nd) - 5 Wins, 8 Losses.
Pitt (RPI, ranked 39th) - 2 Wins, 7 Losses.
Colorado SOS (15) and opponent's SOS (32)
Pitt SOS (66) and opponent's SOS (42)
Well, it appears that the Buffaloes went through a tougher gauntlet than the Panthers did if you value any of those above statistics/rankings. Pitt fans know that they were on the cusp of beating Syracuse in New York in mid-January, lost on a three-pointer at the buzzer against Virginia at home a few weeks later, lost on a 40-foot heave against the Orangemen 10 days after that, and came within a possession or two of beating the Cavaliers in the ACC Tournament last weekend.
Needless to say, the Panthers were a few bounces away from having a very different resume. Still, there is something to be said for a Colorado team that did manage to win their fair share of games against quality opponents. Based on the schedules, these teams appear to be pretty even.
General Statistics - Pitt (Individual):
For Pitt, senior forward Lamar Patterson leads the way; his ppg/rpg/apg splits of 18/5/5 (rounded), allowed him to make Second-Team All-ACC this season. Fellow senior forward Talib Zanna patrols the paint for the Panthers; he leads the team in rebounding at 8.3 per contest, and is second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game. His play in the ACC Tournament is certainly encouraging for a team that needs someone besides Patterson to play like a top-tier player if they plan to advance.
Junior guard Cameron Wright is the only other player in double-digits in terms of scoring, at 10.8 points per contest. He's an X-factor for the team with his slashing ability and mid-range game. If he is engaged early, like we saw at Notre Dame and Clemson, this team reaches another gear. However, he goes through long stretches where it's almost as if he isn't on the floor.
Sophomore point guard James Robinson will bring his patented on-ball defense and near 4:1 assist to turnover ratio to Florida. However, I think Pitt fans are hoping he'll be able to bring a little something extra. He's a true floor general, but I think the playmaking/risk-taking of freshman point guard freshman Josh Newkirk might be something the team turns to if the offense get's stagnant.
Freshman forwards Michael Young and/or Jamel Artis are going to have to step up for the Panthers. Young is now under 40% on his field goals for the season (39.4%). Not a great stat for a forward, despite him taking more outside jumpers. Artis has the ability to stretch to floor, but makes mistakes defensively that could cost the team in a close game.
General Statistics - Colorado (Individual):
I'll be honest, I haven't seen the Buffaloes play one time this season, but let's just take a quick look at the box-score stats. They were led by junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie (14.7ppg), but an ACL injury against Washington in mid-January, ended his season. Now, sophomore forward Josh Scott leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game, and also pulls down an average of 8.5 rebounds per contest, which is also a team-high.
Junior point guard Askia Booker is second on the team in scoring at 14 points per game; he also leads the team in assists at 3.4 per game. The loss of Dinwiddie was huge for this team; aside from leading the team in scoring, he also led the team in assists (3.8), steals (1.5), free throw percentage (85.7%), and three-point percentage (41.3%). For what it's worth, a quick search on his name in Google included quite a few that related to the NBA Draft.
Team Statistics Summary:
Pitt hauls in 36.1 rebounds per game, good for 103rd in Division I. While Colorado pulls down 37.5 boards per contest, good for 50th. I am not really surprised that the difference of 1.4 rebounds creates that much separation in the rankings, but that's really the most impressive face-value statistic for the Buffaloes.
The Panthers, however, are 21st in the country in assists per game at a very impressive average of 15.6 dimes per game. As I mentioned above, the loss of Dinwiddie really hampered his team's ball movement - at least in terms of assists - and Colorado is 264th (11.5apg) in the country as a result.
Their team field goal percentage of 43.7% comes in at 209th in Division I, while Pitt is 79th at 46.1%. Perhaps all these things add up, and right now, it looks like the summation favors the Panthers. Of course, that's why the games are played on the court and not on paper.
The key stat comparison is that the Buffaloes hold opposing teams to just 25.9 rebounds per game, 43rd in the nation. If they can't control the defensive glass, Pitt's stingy defense - 62.4 points per game, 22nd in Division I - will probably hold Colorado down long enough for the Panthers to be able to take advantage of second-chance opportunities.