After losing back-to-back ACC matchups, Pitt (8-4, 4-3 ACC) is looking to get back on track Saturday night at 8 p.m. when it takes on Notre Dame (5-9, 2-6 ACC) at Petersen Events Center.
Here are five things to know to get you prepared for Saturday’s contest which will be broadcast on ACC Network.
PITT LOSING IN DIFFERENT WAYS DURING STREAK
Jeff Capel’s squad has dropped two straight games since getting off to a strong 8-2 start to the season, and while both were relatively close games down the stretch, Wake Forest and North Carolina beat the Panthers in their own, unique ways.
Against the Panthers, Wake Forest converted 15 of its 32 3-pointers, a mark that is going to be tough to beat no matter what team does it. Ismael Massoud led the air-raid approach for the Demon Deacons, knocking down eight of his ten 3-point attempts on his way to 31 points. In that game, Pitt held Wake Forest to just 31 rebounds and 16 points in the paint, proving that it could hold down the interior against a smaller team. However, in its next game, the Panthers struggled inside against a talented Tar Heels frontcourt.
In that next matchup, Pitt was dominated by UNC’s bigs, who out-rebounded the Panthers 37 to 29. North Carolina also scored 48 points in the paint, compared to Pitt’s 32. Ever since freshman center John Hugley’s suspension, Pitt has been severely undermanned down low with just Abdoul-Karim Coulibaly and Terrell Brown handling the paint.
While Notre Dame has pretty similar height to Pitt, the Irish do have 6-foot-10 Nate Laszewski and 6-foot-11 Juwan Durham, who are averaging 23+ minutes per game. In last season’s win against Pitt, Durham and Laszewski each scored 11 points and combined for ten rebounds. However, this season’s Irish squad looks a bit different without John Mooney, who led the Irish to victory over Pitt with 17 points and ten boards.
ONCE AGAIN, FEED CHAMPAGNIE
Justin Champagnie is in the midst of one of the most dominant seasons in Pitt basketball history, and that continued against North Carolina, when he posted 23 points and 10 rebounds. Now, anytime someone goes 7 of 9 from the field, 3 of 4 from three, and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line, they played a great game. The difference with Champagnie is that he can be even better.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 27, 2021
The 6-foot-6 forward only put up nine field goals, which was third on the team behind Au’Diese Toney and Ithiel Horton. After the game, Capel addressed the lack of looks for the reigning ACC Player of the Week.
“We have to run our offense better in order to do that,” Capel said about getting the ball to Champagnie more. “We have to be able to execute. We have to be able to get into entries and get the ball where we want to get it to. North Carolina did a good job of taking us out of some of our stuff today.”
He is currently averaging 20.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game, both which rank first in the ACC. After winning his second-straight ACC Player of the Week award, Champagnie is looking to do so once again this week with a strong performance against ND.
RANKINGS & STATS: IRISH NEAR BOTTOM OF THE PACK IN ACC
Notre Dame has struggled in conference play this season, currently holding a 2-6 record. Those two wins came against Boston College and Miami, who have a combined three conference wins this year.
Out of the 15 teams in the ACC, the Irish rank 12th in scoring offense, 14th in scoring defense, 14th in rebounding offense, 15th in scoring margin, 15th in steals, and 12th in rebounding defense. Before the season, the Irish were projected to finish 12th in the conference, while Pitt was projected to finish 13th. That prediction is shaping up to be fairly accurate for Notre Dame, as it currently sits at 12th in the ACC.
On offense, the Irish are led by Nate Laszewski, Prentiss Hubb, and Dane Goodwin, all who are averaging more than 12 points per game. Hubb is currently second in the ACC in assists behind only Pitt’s Xavier Johnson, averaging 5.1 to go along with his 14.6 points per game. Notre Dame will also be getting back Cormac Ryan, who will be returning to the court after missing the game against Virginia Tech due to a foot injury. Ryan is ranked sixth in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio and currently averaging 9.1 points per game.
According to Kenpom.com’s rankings, ND is ranked No. 84 in the nation. In the NCAA’s NET rankings, the Irish are ranked at No. 105, 41 spots below the Panthers who sit at 64.
LASZEWSKI AS DANGEROUS AS THEY COME FROM DEEP
Notre Dame’s leading scorer on the year has been forward Nate Laszewski, who is averaging 15.9 points per game, good for ninth in the ACC. However, just looking at his point average is not nearly enough.
The 6-foot-10 Florida native is shooting a phenomenal 55.1% from downtown, ranking first in the nation. He is also ranked sixth in the nation in overall field goal percentage, shooting 65%. His 65% mark would also be good for second on Notre Dame’s all-time field goal percentage leaderboards, and is currently the best in the ACC.
Junior F @natelaszewski now leads the country in both EFG% (.765) and 3FG% (.551, min 8 games, 1.5 3FGM/G)
He is also sixth in the NCAA in FG% (.650) – the only player in the nation among the top 10 in both FG% and 3FG%
— @NDmbb Athletic Comms (@NDmbbSID) January 28, 2021
Laszewski’s season high in points, 28, came against Virginia back on Dec. 30. He has shot at least 60% from the field in nine of his 14 games, including a 100% shooting game against Bellarmine in which he finished with 16 points in 32 minutes.
If Pitt wants to take down the Irish, it must put a focus on keeping Laszewski in check from beyond the arch, or else we could see another outburst similar to Ismael Massoud of Wake Forest.
VEGAS PICKING PITT TO SNAP STREAK
The line for Saturday night’s matchup is currently sitting at Pitt (-3.5) according to popular betting service BetOnline. The moneyline is set at Pitt (-170) and Notre Dame (+150).
Pitt is 7-5 against the spread on the season, and has not covered since its win over Duke. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is now 4-10 against the spread this season after failing to cover in its most recent game against Virginia Tech.
The over/under is currently at 143 points on BetOnline. Pitt is now averaging 73.5 points per game and allowing an average of 67.7 points per game. Notre Dame is averaging just 69.9 points per game, ranking 12th in the conference in that statistic.