Following up on a second-round win over Georgia Tech yesterday, the Pittsburgh Panthers are back in action for their second game of the ACC tournament. They’re matched up against Jon Scheyer’s #21 Duke Blue Devils (23-8, 14-6 ACC) who finished as the fourth-ranked ACC team. The Blue Devils stole the double bye from the Panthers on the last day of the regular season, winning at UNC while the Panthers fell to Miami.
Duke bounced in and out of the rankings throughout the season, but they’ve caught fire as of late. Winners of six in a row, the Blue Devils are finding form at the right time. They haven’t lost since early February against Virginia, a game most will remember by the controversial no-call when Duke’s Kyle Filipowski got crushed going up for a dunk at the end of regulation.
Either way, the Duke Blue Devils are already a lock for March Madness. Although this may not be a season that lives up to the lofty expectations set by the Coach K era, they’re still a force to be reckoned with this season, and a tough matchup for the Panthers. They’ve played once already this season, a game in which Duke dominated the offensive boards and bullied the Panther frontcourt on the way to a 77-69 Blue Devil win.
THINGS TO KNOW:
- Kyle Filipowski is a monster. The ACC-rookie of the year is averaging just short of a double-double (15.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG) Standing at 7’0”, he poses a little bit of a matchup nightmare for the Panthers front court.
- Duke has a top-30 defense by KENPOM, coming in at 27th in the country. This ranks as the best defense that the Panthers have come up against all season, and All-ACC defensive team member Dereck Lively II leads an elite unit that will give the Panther front-court fits.
- While Duke’s defense is pretty stellar, they lack the ability to score with consistency. The weakest part of the Blue Devil game is their inability to shoot the three, a metric in which they rank 13 out of 15 in the ACC by 3FG%.
- Duke makes up for their lower-than-average team field goal percentage by maximizing opportunity. Scheyer’s squad crashes the board like no other team in the conference, ranking first in offensive rebounds per game (12.6).
Predicting this game is a battle of heart versus brain. On one hand, these Panthers have shown the ability to be capable of anything on a basketball court for stretches. On the other, the defense has been lacking recently and the Blue Devils are hot and can capitalize on Pitt’s weaknesses. For my prediction, I’m going with a Blue Devil victory by a score of 79-72. Either I’m right and upset, or wrong and happy. Call that a win-win?