The first round of the 2022 ACC Tournament begins Tuesday afternoon in Brooklyn, New York.
No. 12 seed Pitt will face No. 13 Boston College to begin the tournament starting at 2 p.m.
The Panthers have lost their last four games and look to end a slide against BC and take two out of three this season against the Eagles and live to play another day.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (11-20, 6-14 ACC) first-round matchup against the Boston College Eagles (11-19, 6-14).
The madness of March has already begun across the country with teams punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament and making new memories during their conference tournaments. Pitt will look to make a few new memories of its own to brighten up a frustrating season. The Panthers are the higher seed against Boston College, splitting the two-game season series. Pitt won at home 69-67 on Jan. 8 but lost 96-56 on the road on Jan. 30.
TOURNEY TIME. 🏀
— ACC Men's Basketball (@accmbb) March 6, 2022
Head coach Jeff Capel is excited about the opportunity and the chance to compete on one of college basketball’s largest stages.
“As a competitor, you should always think that you can go on a run, and if you play like you’re capable of playing, we can win and we can beat anyone,” Capel said during Monday’s press conference.
Looking to snap a four-game losing streak, dropping three of four to the conference’s top four seeds, the Panthers look to start out strong and set the tone early to move forward.
“One of the exciting parts about this time of year is that it is survive and advance,” Capel said. “You just go out and hopefully we can play with some sense of urgency and have some intelligence and have some purpose in the things that we do.”
Harping on Hugley and Horton
Sophomore forward John Hugley has paced the Panthers in both scoring (14.7) and rebounds (7.9), starting all but one of Pitt’s 31 games. Hugley thinks that his season is on course with how he expected himself to perform and also to make a statement to others on his gameplay.
“I think it has gone good to my expectations,” Hugley said. “I don’t think everyone expected me to play how I am playing, but I feel like I have been doing pretty good, as far as my season has been going as far as expectations, as far as my team and my coaches.”
Hugley is treating the tournament as a fresh start and a new opportunity for the Panthers to prove themselves.
“Everyone in the locker room knows we’ve got to hit the reset button,” Hugley said. “Like Coach was saying, nothing that happened in the regular season matters anymore. This is a brand new season. We’re 0-0, so now it’s just to showcase what we know how to do.”
For redshirt-junior guard Ithiel Horton, ups and downs have been associated with his 2021-22 season from the very beginning. Being suspended and reinstated twice due to legal issues, the Vauxhall, New Jersey native has started seven of the 12 games he’s appeared in. Horton has shot 36% from the floor but 39.1% from behind the three-point arc and averages 10.1 points per game.
“At times I thought he has been pressing a little bit,” Capel said. “He’s important for us. He’s been through a lot. After that stretch against North Carolina, I think he was a little bit fatigued. But he’s done some really good things for us.”
The Eagle Has Landed
Boston College also enters the conference tournament on a skid, dropping its past three contests. The Eagles were grounded by No. 14 Georgia Tech on the road 82-78 in overtime Saturday. BC is 2-10 in its last 10 games including five-straight losses before the current three-game slide. Before falling to the Yellow Jackets, the team fell to Clemson and Miami by double digits and both at home. Pitt and Boston College matchup well but turnovers and steals are two categories the Eagles have a distinct advantage in spanning the college landscape and draw increased importance in tournament games.
Pitt was without Capel during the road trip to the Conte Forum in the 13-point loss. Capel expects a better performance with another crack at the Eagles.
“I think we can play much better [than that], I hope we can play much better [than that]. There were very extenuating circumstances when we played them the second time,” Capel said. “No excuses, just an explanation of what it was. We flew up the day of, five minutes, ten minutes before we left, I found out I had COVID, I didn’t make the trip.”
A major factor in the game’s outcome will be the performance of Makai Ashton-Langford. One of three players averaging double-digit points (12.1), Ashton-Langford is averaging 22 points against the Panthers and shooting just under 56% from the floor and 58% from three. He is also the team leader in assists (3.3). Makai’s younger brother DeMarr Langford Jr., is the second-leading scorer averaging 11.1 points and is followed by 10.4 per game from Jaeden Zackery. T.J. Bickerstaff averages more rebounds (7.5) than points (7.1) and will be a player to keep an eye on near the paint.
Boston College is favored by 2 points in Tuesday morning’s latest odds.
Pitt is 15-16 against the spread and has been struggling to cover the past few outings against top of the conference opponents in Miami, Duke, and Notre Dame. The Panthers are 12-10 ATS when at least 2-point underdogs and have hit the over in point total 14 times.
The over/under for the game is set at 128.5 points and Pitt is +110 on the money line.
Boston College is 14-16 against the spread this season and 4-4 when favored by two or more. The Eagles are -130 on the money line.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Pitt and Boston College first-round matchup will air on the ACC Network Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. Anish Shroff and Jordan Cornette have the call from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The action can also be heard live on 93.7 The Fan.
The winner advances to face No. 5 Wake Forest in the second round on Wednesday.
Stay tuned to Pittsburgh Sports Now as George Michalowski and Alan Saunders will have live coverage throughout the day.
En route to Brooklyn w @ASaunders_PGH/
We sleep in May. pic.twitter.com/P1DHpei1ol
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) March 8, 2022