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Five Things to Know Before Pitt vs. Northwestern in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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On Monday night, Pitt begins a three-game road trip in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Northwestern at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, Illinois. 

The Panthers are riding a three-game winning streak, defeating Alabama State, Fairleigh Dickinson, and William & Mary following a three-game losing streak. 

Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (4-3) contest against Northwestern (5-1). 

Final ACC/Big Ten Challenge

All good things must come to an end. NCAA.com reporter Andy Katz detailed Monday morning that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge will end following the conclusion of this year’s slate of games. This ends a 23-year run of competition between the ACC and Big Ten in which schools would face off against the opposing conference in an attempt to showcase some of college basketball’s top programs. 

In January, the Big 23 and SEC challenge will also run its course following a 10-year run. A new ACC/SEC Challenge is replacing the conference matchups for both men’s and women’s programs beginning the week of Thanksgiving next year. 2023 makes way for new matchups against schools including Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, and others. 

Pitt has won four-straight games facing Northwestern including a one-point win during the 2020 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Pitt is 4-4 all-time in the challenge and 2-2 led by head coach Jeff Capel. 

Battle of the Boards

Pitt and Northwestern are neck-and-neck beside one another in collective rebounding numbers. The Panthers average 37 per game (tied for 48th) and Northwestern a hair over at 27.2 (tied for 44th). Both marks are top 50 in the country and the Panthers also succeed on the offensive glass to the tune of 10.4 each time on the floor. 

Blake Hinson has been a significant component of Pitt’s efforts. Hinson leads the team in points (16), rebounds (6.6), and steals (1.4) from his guard/forward position. He posted double-doubles in the season opener and the most recent game against William & Mary, bookending the games in between by scoring double-figure points in all but one. A starter in every game, Hinson continues to become a dependable player for Capel to pair alongside John Hugley and Nelly Cummings.

Shooting woes hampered Pitt in the first half against William & Mary, trailing by four at halftime, and continues to be a point of emphasis. Pitt ended the game shooting 43.5% overall. 

“As we move forward, the competition increases, starting on Monday,” Capel said following the W&M game. “If you dig yourself into a hole the next three games that we’re going to play, it’s going to be difficult to get out of.”

Jamarius Burton is first on the team in field-goal percentage (55.7%) and three-point percentage (43.8%). His emergence as a dependable scoring threat assisted Pitt in winning the previous three games and avoiding a letdown situation that transpired in previous seasons – losing to a little-known non-conference opponent on your home floor. Averaging 14.7 points, second on the team, Burton owns a 23.1 usage percentage.

PSN’s George Michalowski spoke to Burton and guard Nike Sibande in the fourth episode of “Just Buckets with Jamarius Burton” available here

Wildcat Whiparound

Northwestern enters the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after a crushing 43-42 loss at the hands of No. 13 Auburn to conclude the Cancun Challenge. The Wildcats lost in the championship game and played a toughly defended battle into the final minute before Allen Flanigan scored the winning layup. Northwestern made only 2-of-24 (8%) three-pointers it attempted and missed four free throws. Both teams were poor at shooting from the field in a game that accumulated a combined 12 steals and 14 blocks.

CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein reported that Julian Roper is out with an upper-body injury, per head coach Chris Collins. Chase Audige was the only Wildcat to score in double figures, registering 10 points on 4-of-14 attempts. Audige averages 12.2 points as four players on the team average 10 or more. Boo Buie (13.3), Audige (12.2), Ty Berry (11), and Robbie Beran (10.5) round out the Wildcat attack.

Northwestern close to a 15-point per game scorer in Pete Nance to the transfer portal, suiting up for North Carolina during his fifth year of eligibility (COVID year). The team averages 66.5 points and shoots a below average 39% from the field. The Wildcats do take care of the ball, turning it over at a clip of 11.8 per game, and force nine steals each contest. Squaring off against Northwestern will begin a three-game stretch that could define who the Panthers truly are in 2022-23. 

Spread, Over/Under

Northwestern is favored by 7 points in Friday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The line has shifted on various books, opening at 8.5 points yesterday. 

Pitt finished last year 15-17 against the spread. The Panthers are 3-3-1 ATS this year, according to Covers.com, and covered the past two games. 

The over/under for the game is set at 128 points. Northwestern is -315 on the money line with Pitt the underdogs at +260. The Wildcats are 4-2 ATS and 3-0 at home. The over has not hit in any of Northwestern’s six games.   

Broadcast, Radio Info

The Pitt-Northwestern matchup will air on ESPN2 with tipoff scheduled for 9 p.m. Jordan Bernfield and Malcolm Huckaby have the call. The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan. 

Pitt begins ACC play Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Panthers face N.C. State beginning at 7 p.m. on ACC Network. 

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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