As 12-seeded Pitt (10-11, 6-10) heads down to Greensboro for the ACC tournament, the Panthers are preparing to take on 13-seeded Miami (8-16, 4-15) for the second time this season.
Here are five things to know prior to the 2 p.m. game on Tuesday, March 9.
DIFFERENT MIAMI TEAM WITH MCGUSTY
The first time Pitt took on the Hurricanes back in December, Miami was severely ravaged by injuries. The Hurricanes played that game without 6-foot-5 senior guard Kameron McGusty, who is coming off of a season-high 27-point performance against Boston College. McGusty is averaging 12.5 points per game in 17 appearances this year, and will be back healthy in this first round matchup against Pitt.
“I don’t think we can take anything from that meeting into the game tomorrow,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said on Monday about the difference between the two matchups this year. “It’s two teams that are very, very different. They have been hit with a lot of injuries, probably more so than any one this year. We are a completely different team.
In addition to the McGusty injury, Miami also lost Chris Lykes, Sam Waardenburg, and Rodney Miller to season-ending injuries, as well as Matt Cross, who transferred to Louisville. To say that the Hurricanes are completely back is clearly an overstatement, but at least getting McGusty back will improve their chances at taking down Pitt.
“They are a talented team,” Capel continued. “Wong has been one of the better players in our league, he’s an all-ACC guy. Brooks has come on of late and has really really played well. McGusty is a talented guard. Their kid that got eligible just like Nike at the same time- Elijah, another talented guy. So they have talent. They haven’t won as much as I am sure they would have liked to, but they are still a talented team, a very talented team, especially on the offensive end.”
GET HORTON GOING
Ithiel Horton, when he has shot the ball well, has been a crucial part of the Panthers’ offensive game plan throughout the season. After three straight games of 15 or more points to start off February, Horton struggled in Pitt’s games against NC State, Florida State, and Wake Forest. In those four games, he scored seven points twice and then followed those up with a one-point and a zero-point performance.
“We need him to play well for us, he’s a good player,” Capel said about Horton on Monday. “He has shown that this year. We need him to make shots, we need him to take good shots, and we need him to be a solid defender. We know he is capable of doing that at a very high level. Why he struggled, I don’t know. Guys go through tough spots, tough stretched. Sometimes as the season goes on, guys get a little tired, a little fatigued. I think this year unlike any, there is a different type of fatigue. It’s not just the physical fatigue, it’s the mental fatigue of everything that you are going through just to be able to play games, so it could be a little bit of that as well. But, we need him.”
The redshirt sophomore who is known for his shooting snapped out of the slump against Clemson, going 4 for 9 from the field en route to 11 points. He went 3 for 5 on 3-point attempts, snapping his streak of two games without a three. He is now averaging 8.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game on the year, along with a 38% shooting mark from the field and 37% from 3-point range.
CHAMPAGNIE’S SLOW START AT CLEMSON
Against Clemson, Justin Champagnie only scored three points on 1-for-3 shooting in the first half. In that half, he had a team-low +/- rating of -10, and failed to make his presence known on the boards, only grabbing two rebounds.
“I have learned that what you did yesterday does not matter anymore,” he said on Monday. “You’ve got to move on from every play. The past is the past, you can’t change it. I have learned that. You’ve got to fight together and you can’t do it by yourself. Those are the biggest things I have learned from Pitt.”
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) March 8, 2021
While he did start off slow, he picked it up in the second half, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting. The 6-foot-6 forward grabbed four rebounds and only turned the ball over once. However, if Pitt wants to make a run at an ACC title this week, it is going to need Champagnie to contribute more than just 13 and four and play like the First Team All ACC Player that he is.
WHERE THE TEAMS STAND IN THE ACC
This matchup between the No.. 12 and No. 13 teams in the conference is surely not one of the better looking games of the tournament on paper. Here are how the two teams stack up against the rest of their ACC foes.
Offense: Pitt: 10 (71.1 ppg), Miami: 13 (65.9 ppg)
Defense: Pitt: 7 (69.7 ppg), Miami: 11 (71.2 ppg)
FG%: Pitt: 11 (43%), Miami: 14 (41.8%)
3FG%: Pitt: 11 (33.3%), Miami: 15 (29.4%)
FT%: Pitt: 14 (67.3%), Miami: 13 (69.3%)
Rebounding Margin: Pitt: 2 (5.4), Miami: 9 (0.3)
CHANNEL, SPREAD, OVER/UNDER
According to popular betting service BetOnline, the spread for Tuesday afternoon’s matchup is currently hovering around Pitt (-3), as the Panthers will likely be favored for the first time since they covered (-4.5) against Wake Forest. The over/under is currently at 136.5.
This game will be televised on ACC Network, with tip off set for 2 p.m. The winner of this contest between the No. 12 and No. 13 teams in the ACC will move on to meet fifth-seeded Clemson on Wednesday, March 10 at 2:30 p.m.