For some time, the Wake Forest game has been looked to as a chance for the Pitt men’s basketball team to finally get its first ACC win of the year. That game is finally here as the Panthers will take on the Demon Deacons on Wednesday.
Once Pitt lost by double digits to a pretty weak Georgia Tech team, it seemed like more and more fans were pointing to this game. The Panthers did come close to an ACC win a few times since then, of course. They lost by only four against NC State immediately before losing by five to Syracuse. But close doesn’t cut it and if Pitt wants to avoid a winless conference season, well, they better win this one because this looks like it in terms of winnable matchups.
The Panthers have two remaining games after this one. One is a home contest against No. 1 Virginia this weekend and the other is a road contest against Notre Dame. I don’t think we need to debate the silliness of Pitt defeating Virginia but while the Irish game may not be at that same degree of difficulty, it’s still a road game against a team that is better. You can perhaps see Pitt being competitive but, even if they hang around, it’s hard to see them being able to close the door when they haven’t been able to all season long, running out of gas at the end.
No, Pitt needs to defeat Wake Forest if they’re to avoid going winless in the ACC. The bad news? Wake is a better team than Pitt. The good news, though, is that the Demon Deacons really aren’t very good.
Wake is a Pitt-like 10-17 on the season and while they do have three conference wins to the Panthers goose egg, none have come against great competition (Syracuse, NC State, and Georgia Tech).
Still, none of that is to suggest that Wake will be easily beaten, or even beaten at all. ESPN’s matchup predictor has the game 80% in Wake’s favor. Seems a bit high but that’s how bad this Pitt team has been this year. But the Demon Deacons also haven’t had anywhere near the number of embarrassing losses as Pitt. They only have three ACC wins but have been mostly respectable, losing eight more by single digits.
There’s little doubt that while Wake is bad, Pitt is worse. Expecting them to win, even against bad conference teams at home, isn’t really something that can be done with a straight face. But the Panthers should at least have a shot here and if they hope to win one more game this year, this is their best opportunity.