The Pitt men’s basketball team returns to ACC play this weekend with a Saturday noon game against Wake Forest.
While the Panthers have played the majority of their games out of conference thus far, they have faced a couple of ACC foes, including Florida State (win) and Louisville (loss). From here on out, though, it’s ACC competition for the Panthers.
Today’s game is one of those winnable ACC contests for Pitt. They not only have the game at home but Wake Forest has the look of an ACC team that will struggle this year. The Demon Deacons are only 7-5 thus far and have dropped both of their ACC matchups (to Boston College and NC State. That’s in addition to a loss against currently 7-5 Charlotte.
Pitt comes into the game about a 6.5-point favorite. A year ago, you look at this game as one you’d like to win. But if the program wants to prove its headed in the right direction, you look at games like this now as ones that you’ve got to have.
Still, no ACC game will be a gimme for Pitt. The Panthers have had their share of struggles, too, losing a game to Nicholls State while also just playing several closer games against weaker teams.
A couple of Wake Forest players are suspended for the game, Sharone Wright, Jr. and Michael Wynn. Both have had minimal impacts, though, so that’s hardly a tremendous break. The real test will be slowing the backcourt of Brandon Childress and Chaundee Brown, who average a combined 30 points per game, as well as French big man Olivier Starr, who averages nearly a double double. Brown, in particular, has been a beast lately, scoring 51 combined points in his last two games.
Wake Forest’s defense has really struggled this year, ranking 255th in the nation, allowing 72.4 points per game. Hopefully that’s something that can help the Pitt offense remain on track. That offense has picked up, scoring 79 points against Binghamton and 87 against Canisius in the last two games. But, overall, the Panthers have been one of the country’s worst offensive teams — 298th in the nation, specifically, averaging only 66.4 points per contest. Pitt proved they can score against weaker teams but now they will need to do it against ACC competition.