Pitt had a tough task in defeating Syracuse for a third consecutive time this season on Wednesday in the team's ACC Tournament opener. Things get ratcheted up a notch with today's game against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels come into the game as a top ten team in the nation and as the top seed in the tournament. In the latest matchup of these two teams this year, Pitt was outclassed in an ugly 21-point loss.
Things may not be all that different this time around, but as they did against Syracuse, the Panthers actually have some good recent history in facing the Tar Heels.
Pitt won last year's game against a North Carolina team that was ranked No. 12 in the nation and favored to win. The Panthers, you might recall, weren't even an NCAA Tournament team last season, being relegated to the NIT. Defeating the Tar Heels, even on their home floor, was certainly an upset. That's particularly true as Pitt won that game by 13 points.
Pitt also won the matchup before that one, taking out the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament in 2014. That one was also an upset as the Panthers were unranked facing a No. 15 Tar Heels team in North Carolina, no less. Overall, Jamie Dixon is 2-2 against the Tar Heels since Pitt joined the ACC.
How did Pitt win those games? By shooting unbelievably well. The Panthers made 52% of their attempts from the field in the 2014 game and 64% in last season's big upset. Chances are, a 40% effort on Thursday won't cut it.
These are different teams, of course. But the good thing is that some key players on this year's roster were around for those wins against North Carolina. The rosters aren't unchanged but several of the current players were involved in those big wins.
The argument exists that Pitt has no shot facing such a good team. But in reality, both wins they previously scored against the Tar Heels were upsets, too. Pitt may not win the game, but the Panthers have held their own against ranked Tar Heels teams in the past.