After a hectic week including two players transferring out of the program, Pitt traveled down to Raleigh where it will take on NC State for the second time in as many weeks.
Here are five things to know to get you prepared for the Sunday afternoon matchup.
WHO WILL STEP UP?
Earlier this week after the news of the two transferring was announced by the program, Capel broke down the rest of the squad, mentioning a few players who he thinks could step up and see an increased role through the rest of the season.
ON NIKE SIBANDE:
“Nike is a good player,” he said. “Our last game he had more of an opportunity to play. He did some good things for us, you know, he has talent. I think knowing that he is going to play, I think that will help him to be a little more comfortable out there on the court. He has some experience and we anticipate him playing well for us.”
ON FEMI ODUKALE:
“He’s played very very well,” he said. “I think he has big upside. He has a good feel for the game, offensively and defensively. He has good size, he has length, he’s a good athlete, and he has a toughness about him. I think he wants to be good. So that is something we are going to keep working with him on, challenge him on, and he will certainly get more of an opportunity now.”
ON WILLIAM JEFFRESS:
“Will played well for us early in the season,” Capel said. “As we got to after Christmas his playing time decreased a little bit. But, I’ll tell you what, his attitude has been terrific. We believe in Will. We really, really believe that he is going to be an outstanding player here and a guy that is going to help us change this program. You talk about a kid that probably should be a junior in high school, you know, just turned 17 years old, and I thought he did some really good things in our last game, our last couple of games. I look at him, and he looks taller. To me it looks like he has gotten a little bit bigger. He’s gotten in and he’s worked. I think he has a really, really bright future here for us.”
“It is amazing how he sees everything and how he observes everything,” Capel added about Jeffress. “He’s a kid that really wants to be good, and wants to learn how to be good. He knows he doesn’t have all the answers, so he wants to absorb. We have to continue to pour into him to help him continue to grow.”
ON NOAH COLLIER:
“I think Noah Collier is a guy,” Capel said when asked which under-the-radar guy we can expect to see with an increased role. “He is another one that has just continued to get better in practice. He has continued to work and has started to understand how to work. He has done some really good things for us in practice as well. So, he’s a guy over these last few weeks that will get an opportunity.”
PITT LOSES JOHNSON AND TONEY: WILL THE PANTHERS GET BACK UP?
All eyes will be on Jeff Capel’s Pitt team Sunday, as it travels down to Raleigh to take on NC State just days after the program lost two of its top three scorers, Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney, to the transfer portal. The two veteran players made the decision to leave the program in what has been one of the more drastic collapses the entire conference has seen this season.
After starting 8-2 and building up valid NCAA tournament aspirations, everything has seemingly fallen apart in Oakland. Head coach Jeff Capel is now left with little to no experience other than Justin Champagnie, Nike Sibande, Ithiel Horton, and Abdoul-Karim Coulibaly.
Rollin to Raleigh. pic.twitter.com/skxdS0xNW7
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) February 27, 2021
“My message to the team yesterday and today was just that, look, sometimes you go through adversity, you go through difficult times, and as I have told you guys all year, it is just a really strange time,” Capel said on 93.7 The Fan’s Jeff Capel Radio Show. “I told them, I said, two of the greatest feelings I think a human being can have is number one, a comeback. If you’re able to come back from something. A lot of people fall, a lot of people go through difficult times, adverse times, and you find out who you are. You find out who’s with you, you find out who’s in your corner. You find out what you’re made of. As we have talked about since I’ve been here, you know, fighting. To come back from something, to come back from an adverse situation, it is a great feeling. People love a great comeback story. A fall from grace, and then all of a sudden a person comes back.”
MATCHUP FROM 11 DAYS AGO: WHO PLAYED WELL?
Sunday’s matchup will be the second game between these two programs in as many weeks, as the Wolfpack defeated Pitt 74-73 back on Feb. 17.
In that game, NC State was led by Jericole Hellems, DJ Funderburk, and Braxton Beverly. Hellems fouled out in this one, but contributed 17 points in 25 minutes of play. The 6-foot-10 Funderburk went 6 of 9 from the floor, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Beverly hit two of his four threes en route to 12 points in 21 minutes.
For Pitt, Champagnie, Toney, and Johnson led the way. Champagnie finished with yet another double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing ten boards. One thing he excelled at in that game and can look to do again today is getting to the free-throw line. The star sophomore got to the line 16 times, knocking down 11.
In what was a tightly-contested game, both teams shot similar percentages, with NC State gaining a slight edge. The Wolfpack shot 56.% from the floor and 36.4% from three, while Pitt shot 50% from the field along with 33.3% from deep.
LATE-SEASON ROADKILL? PITT STRUGGLING AWAY FROM HOME
After starting out the season 3-0 on the road, Pitt was looking like it was a strong team both in home games at Petersen Events Center as well as in away games.
However, since the win at Syracuse on Jan. 6, the Panthers have lost three-straight road games. Those losses came against Wake Forest, Virginia, and Georgia Tech, all conference games that Capel’s squad would certainly like back.
Sunday’s game will feature Pitt, who is ranked no. 82 in the nation according to Kenpom.com’s rankings, and NC State, who is ranked No. 71 in those same rankings. While Pitt has lost those three-straight on the road, NC State has done the opposite, taking down Pitt, Wake Forest, and Virginia in its last three games away from Raleigh.
SPREAD, OVER/UNDER, CHANNEL
Less than two weeks ago, Pitt was heading into its game against the Wolfpack at home favored by four points with a moneyline of (-195). The spread for Sunday’s game is much different, as it is currently set at NC State (-7) according to popular betting service BetOnline. The moneyline for Sunday’s game is set at NC State (-300).
Both teams have been nearly .500 against the spread this season, as Pitt sits at 9-8-1 ATS and the Wolfpack is 9-9-2 ATS. The over/under in this one is currently hovering around 138.5 points, a total that is lower than Pitt bettors have seen in recent games. In four of Pitt’s last five games, the total has gone over, so that may be the pick today.
Sunday’s game in Raleigh will tip-off at 4 p.m. on ACC Network.