The Pittsburgh Panthers are riding the momentum of winning four of their last five including a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Miami Hurricanes in their last game. Now the Panthers head down to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels with a chance at another quad 1 win.
Since the Panthers come from behind win over the Tar Heels at the Pete back in December North Carolina has been on a roll. The Tar Heels went 6-1 in January with their only loss coming on the road to the Virginia Cavaliers. As far as injuries go it looks like the Tar Heels will have a mixed bag. North Carolina will most likely have guard RJ Davis available for the matchup. Davis is the second-leading scorer with 16.4 points per game and has the most assists per game with 3.2.
Sixth-man Puff Johnson does not look like he will suit up for the Panthers. Puff is the brother of former Panther turned Tar Heel Cameron Johnson. Johnson is averaging 4.1 points per game and 2.6 rebounds per game and is averaging the most minutes outside of the starting five with 14.9.
The Tar Heels will continue to run through Armando Bacot and for good reason. The 6’11 senior continues to be the catalyst for the Tar Heels fresh off a national championship appearance in the previous season. Bacot is currently averaging 17.9 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game and was just named to a late-season Wooden Award watch list as one of the best college basketball players in the country. The Panthers have been vulnerable, especially giving up offensive rebounds, and will need to be sound to not allow second-chance points to the Tar Heels and Bacot.
The Panthers will hope to get similar productions out of Jamarius Burton compared to the first game in Pittsburgh. The Charlotte native went off in the first game against North Carolina, scoring 31 points while shooting 14 of 17 from the floor while able to get to whatever spot of the floor he wanted. Burton will look to replicate that level of play in a homecoming game back closer to home.
The Panthers will live and die by the three-point shot and will hope for a much better night from beyond the arc than the first matchup. The Panthers were still able to come away with the win but shot a lowly 20% from beyond the arc going only 5 of 25. The Panthers were able to win the turnover battle and kept the rebounds close in the first matchup. If the Panthers want to have a chance of coming out of Chapel Hill with a win Pitt must be able to find consistency from beyond the arc especially if they find themselves down in the turnover or rebounding battle significantly.
The Tar Heels are 10-0 so far on the season at the Dean E. Smith center and it will take a complete effort from the Panthers to come away with the win. Currently, Pitt is an 8.5 underdog on the road with ESPN giving the Panthers just a 20.8% chance of pulling off the upset. Still, the veteran Panthers have shown resilience and an ability to produce when the pressure is on. Pitt will need to be able to replicate some of that home magic at the Pete to add another impressive win to the March resume.