Pitt’s win over Louisville on Wednesday night had program-altering implications, as the Panthers snapped their nearly two-year-long ACC losing streak.
It also meant plenty for the fate of this year’s team, as the win over the Cardinals, who have played one of the most challenging schedules in the country but are still 10-5, are currently one of the favorites of the NCAA’s new NET Ratings that will help shape the field for the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
The Panthers came into Wednesday’s game ranked No. 86 by the metric, but after beating Louisville, Pitt leapt all the way to No. 68. That mark still wouldn’t be likely to get Pitt into the tournament field, but it would probably get them close to that conversation.
Louisville’s loss dropped the Cardinals from No. 24 to No. 30. NC State, Pitt’s opponent on Saturday, fell one spot to No. 16 after losing to North Carolina on Tuesday. The Tar Heels, who beat Pitt to open ACC play, are up to No. 8.
• After the win, Pitt’s team defense is now ranked 11th in effective field goal percentage against and 14th in 3-point field goal defense, according to KenPom.com
While Johnson and McGowens do much of the defending beyond the 3-point line, most modern offenses have a three or a four man that can get out and shoot, and it’s incumbent on Pitt’s wings to be able to defend both inside and out.
Against the Cardinals on Wednesday, the task of stopping 6-foot-8 wing Jordan Nwora, who leads Louisville with 31 3-pointers, fell to freshman Au’Diese Toney.
Pitt’s youngster was up to the challenge, holding to a 1 for 7 night, all of which were from outside the arc. It was Nwora’s worst-shooting night of the season.
“I thought that Au’Diese Toney’s defense on Nwora all game was big-time,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “We wanted to have an awareness for him. He’s as improved as any guy in this league, and we did an amazing job on him tonight.”
• KenPom.com’s efficiency rating also got more bullish on the Panthers, bumping them up from No. 93 to No. 87 — right where they’d been before losing to Carolina. That site now projects for Pitt to finish the 2018-19 regular season with a winning record at 16-15.
It also has several Panthers among the nation’s leaders in individual statistical categories. Pitt center Terrell Brown is seventh in block percentage, Trey McGowens is 17th in steal percentage and point guard Xavier Johnson is 21st in assist rate.