I wouldn’t exactly say that the Pitt men’s basketball season hangs in the balance with Saturday’s game against Notre Dame but let’s just say that the Panthers could use a win.
Pitt (8-4) is fresh off its second consecutive loss and while the defeat at the hands of a good North Carolina team was hardly embarrassing, the Panthers were also defeated by a weak Wake Forest team. Saturday’s game against Notre Dame (5-9) represents another game against a team that hasn’t play too well.
The Irish are one of the weaker teams in the conference with a 2-6 ACC record. Their season looks even worse when you consider their victories. Notre Dame’s best win sounds good — a narrow one-point victory against Kentucky. But the Wildcats are only 5-10 this year and beating them hardly means much at this point. Other Irish victories have come against Boston College and Miami (in the bottom three of the conference) and against Detroit and Bellarmine. In short, they haven’t beaten anyone.
For Pitt, it’s going to come down to slowing forward Nate Laszewski, who leads the team in both scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). Laszewski makes 65% of his shots and that includes connecting from three-point range at an astounding 55% clip. He’s joined by guards Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin. Neither shoots as well as Laszewski but the duo averages a combined 27 points per game.
Pitt isn’t an elite squad — the last two games proved that as if there was any doubt. But if the Panthers want to prove themselves as a team deserving of finishing in the upper half of the conference, winning games like these is all but mandatory.
The game is also important for the Panthers’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Pitt has sort of been right at the fringe of NCAA Tournament bid projections. And if the team wants to have any hope at getting in, they can hardly afford more bad losses. Already in that column is Wake Forest and that disaster of a season opener against St. Francis where the Panthers were soundly beaten by ten points. St. Francis, by the way, has not one much since then, losing to UMBC in their next game by 15 points while stumbling to a 4-9 record overall.
Game time is at 8:00 p.m. and you can catch it on the ACC Network.