Following an unfortunate loss on the road against Va Tech this past weekend, the Pittsburgh Panthers have their penultimate game at home tonight at 7:00 PM against the cellar-dwelling Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech is 11-16 (3-13) in ACC play this season and in the previous matchup with Pitt, the Panthers won 71-60 with strong performances by Nike Sibande (21 points, 6 rebounds) and Jamarius Burton (19 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists). It’s been a mixed bag of results for the Yellow Jackets, as they have impressive wins over Miami and Va Tech, but also was the source of Louisville’s first conference win.
Kevin Pastner’s squad is unpredictable and young, losing most of their top talent last year and finding themselves amidst a rebuild of sorts. I’d expect this core to be good in a few years, but right now they’re so young that there’s a lot of learning left to do.
“Who is Georgia Tech’s best player?” is a hard question to answer. Early on in the season, Pastner answered a reporter’s question stating something along the lines of “the star of the team is the team” which is reflected in the lack of statistical outliers for any one player that tends to indicate stardom. If one had to be selected it’s likely G Miles Kelly, the only one averaging over 10 PPG, currently the team leader at 12.8.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Keep your foot on the gas:
After coming off a loss against the Hokies, the Panthers don’t have the luxury of coasting through the rest of the season fully confident they’re a lock for the tournament. While right now sitting only two spots outside of the top-25 and amidst the top of the ACC, those pesky computer metrics still don’t love the Panthers enough for them to be seen as locks at this point. Pitt needs to recapture that energy and chip-on-the-shoulder attitude in front of what is likely to be a pretty full Pete crowd.
Dominate the post:
In their first meeting, Pitt crushed Georgia Tech down low. The two forwards for Georgia Tech who get the most minutes are both 6’7”, making the Yellow Jackets one of the smallest and perimeter-centric teams in the ACC. Despite winning the points in the paint battle by a margin of 3-16, the Panthers somehow lost the rebounding battle 35-40. An improved Pitt team should be out-rebounding a much smaller Tech team pretty handily. By no means are the Yellow Jackets a bad team on the boards they’re an oddly good offensive rebounding team, but they are dead last in the ACC in terms of combined opponent rebounds.
Get back on track from deep:
The Panthers shot an abysmal 3-18 from three against Virginia Tech, and as a result, the offense suffered accordingly. If the Panthers can establish the post early, cutting action to the basket and movement down low could open opportunities in the corners as the game progresses for players like Greg Elliott. With threes a major part of the Panther team identity this year, games like the previous one against the Hokies need to forget quickly.
I’m always awful at these, but here we are all the same. Pitt’s going to win this game, of that I’m nearly sure. I don’t think it’ll be particularly close either, so circle back to this post to yell at me when I’m wrong and Tech pulls off a shocker. Give me Pitt winning by a score of 83-70.