Game Time: 2:30 p.m.
Opponent: Notre Dame
Head Coach: Mike Brey (22nd year)
Current Record: 21-9
Last Game: 74-70 loss vs. Florida State
2020-21 Season: 11-15 (7-11, 11th in ACC)
Pitt and Notre Dame are set to square off at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend on Saturday. The two teams met back on Dec. 28, when both were viewed as some of the worst in the ACC. Despite that, Notre Dame edged out Pitt 68-67, and since then, the Fighting Irish have worked tirelessly to change that perception, improving from 6-5 to 21-9, while the Panthers remain ACC cellar dwellers at 11-19.
The Panthers have promising pieces in John Hugley, Mouhamadou Gueye, Jamarius Burton, and Femi Odukale, all of whom scored in double figures against the Irish in December. However, the team is coming off an 86-56 rout at the hands of Duke in which only Hugley and Burton scored on a consistent basis. And in the game before that, an 85-64 loss to Miami, all of Pitt’s top scorers chipped in, but an inability to make defensive stops led to a defeat.
To secure a win in its regular-season finale, Pitt will need to make a 180 from its last two performances and play smothering defense against a team averaging roughly 10 points per game more than them. That will start with stymieing top scorers Blake Wesley, Dane Goodwin and Paul Atkinson, all of whom are averaging more than 12 points per game. And particular attention should be paid to Wesley, who averages 14.9 per game and has scored in double figures in 26 of 30 games.
Of course, to capitalize on any defensive efforts, Pitt will also need to get decent games out of all of its starters, as the bench has contributed virtually nothing all season. In addition, Pitt will need Hugley to take better care of the ball, as he ranks second in the ACC in turnovers and handed the ball over to Duke a team-high four times in Pitt’s last outing.
With that said, oddsmakers do not envision a game in which Pitt’s top scorers get going early and contribute consistently throughout the game, nor do they imagine that a team giving up 85-plus points in its last two outings will bounce back and shut down the Irish. And as a result, the Panthers will enter the matchup in South Bend as 12-point underdogs.