If the Pittsburgh Panthers are looking to keep their place for March, a win to close out January is going to be key. The Panthers have come a long way from their preseason polls projection and while Pitt may have outperformed initial perceptions, this matchup against the Miami Hurricanes will be key in their new expectations. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, a home loss against the 20th-ranked Hurricanes will drop the Panthers out of the field of 68.
The Hurricanes were one of the hottest teams in the country to start the season winning the first 13 of their 14 games. January has not been as kind as Miami has traded wins and losses in each contest they have had this month. Still, the Hurricanes dropped 86 points on the Florida State in a 23-point rout of the Seminoles in Tallahassee which shows how potent their offense is.
Guard Isiah Wong will continue to be the catalyst behind one of the best-scoring offenses in the conference. The Hurricanes lead the ACC in field goal percentage at 47.8% and are the third-highest-scoring team in the conference at 78.2 points per game. Isiah won is the teams leading score with 16.3 points per game and put up 18 points on the Seminole’s defense. Backcourt running mate Nijel Pack has turned it on as late as well and both players helped lead a team that shot 50% from deep in a game against a rival that they previously lost nine straight to.
Pitt will need to respond with a potent offense of their own. While there has been a lot of debate about the Panther’s style of play this season, this matchup will be a track meet and they will need to be efficient from beyond the arc to win. The Panthers are coming off making a program-record 18 three-point baskets while still shooting 48% from deep. The Panthers have an experienced roster to stay calm and weather some of the storms that the Hurricanes can put teams through offensively and have the shooters in Greg Elliot and Blake Hinson, who are both top 10 in the ACC in three-pointers made per game, to reverse some of that pressure back onto Miami.
Miami is the current betting favorite in the matchup at -1.0 but the Panthers have been here before. With ranked home wins over UNC and Virginia, the Panther’s experienced group shouldn’t be rattled in this matchup boasting two teams in the ACC that love to just let it fly. If the Panthers want to continue to prove that they are legit and deserve to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, then this game is about as must-win as you can get.