The Panthers are on a roll. Riding a five-game winning streak, Pitt looks to continue its early-season momentum against Vanderbilt Wednesday night.
Pitt defeated Northwestern and NC State in its last two games to make a statement heard throughout the basketball landscape. Following their first ACC game, the Panthers face off against Vanderbilt in an ACC/SEC matchup.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (6-3) contest against the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-4).
Backed by Burton
Jamarius Burton is the engine that makes the Pitt basketball team run. He earned his eighth-straight double-double against NC State in a 68-60 victory. Burton led Pitt in points (34), assists (4), field goals (9-of-14), free throws (6-of-6), and minutes (38). The playmaking guard has become everything the Panthers hoped he would be and more.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) December 3, 2022
Pitt shot over 46% from the floor despite an off night from behind the arc (27.3%). Burton has been one of the main reasons why the Panthers have improved as a team from the field. Still not a gangbusters offense, shooting at 43.9% overall and 32.8% from three, Burton has helped to inflate the total numbers. Shooting at 55.8% and 38.9% from behind the arc, the graduate student averages 15.8 points per game.
Burton has become the most important member of the Panthers’ offense and a reliable veteran presence on a team deploying several new pieces. Especially during Hugley’s lack of playing time working back from injury, expect Burton to remain an integral member of the Panthers’ victories.
Respect the Name
Entering the NC State game as 9.5-point road underdogs, Pitt stunned the Wolfpack and earned its first conference victory in its first opportunity. NC State entered action ranked No. 49 in basketball, per Kenpom.com, but faltered against Pitt’s suffocating defense. The Panthers jumped to No. 79 in the rankings this week and continue moving up the ladder.
Pitt held the Wolfpack to under 30% shooting in the first half. The Wolfpack made 10-of-34 (29.4%) of their shots and combined for the game to total 6-of-27 (22.2%) three-pointers. Missing seven free throws in 19 attempts did not help the Wolfpack, losing by eight, and turned the ball over 12 times. Pitt did a strong job at the line, registering 12-of-15 (80%) shots at the charity stripe, and converted 30 points in the paint.
The Panthers’ presence inside deploying Blake Hinson, Greg Elliott, and Federiko Federiko contributed to 30 total points. The critical part? They’re doing it without a significant impact from John Hugley. One of the team’s best players, Hugley played 14 minutes in each of the last two games combining for only two points on four shots. Pitt is going to receive additional respect throughout the ACC if its performance against NC State is any indication of what is to come for Jeff Capel and company.
The Vandy Report
The old stomping ground of former Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt slots at No. 86 on the Kenpom.com ratings. Hovering around .500 most of the early season, the Commodores narrowly defeated Wofford, 65-62, on Saturday. The team has broken even at home (2-2), on the road (1-1), and at neutral sites (1-1).
Myles Stute paces the team averaging 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds. Liam Robbins (12.1) and Tyrin Lawrence (10.8) also score in double figures while Jordan Wright (9.9) nearly makes four players averaging double digits. Vandy doesn’t perform especially well in any statistical category. Stute and Robbins will be major players important to neutralize for the Panthers but if the game comes down to free throws, expect the advantage to side with Pitt. Vanderbilt is 346th in free-throw percentage (61.7%) and does not force many steals, recording tied for 331st at 4.9 per game.
Vanderbilt will honor its 1988 Sweet 16 team during the game including one of the program’s greatest moments. Barry Goheen made “THE SHOT” hears around the college basketball world at the buzzer against Pitt in the Round of 32 before moving on to the Sweet 16.
⚓️ In honor of our celebration of the 1988 Sweet 16 team on Wednesday, here's THE SHOT by Barry Goheen.
— Vanderbilt Men's Basketball (@VandyMBB) December 5, 2022
Vanderbilt is favored by 3.5 points in Wednesday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The line has remained steady since opening on Tuesday.
The Panthers are 5-3-1 ATS this year, according to Covers.com, and covered the past four games against Fairleigh Dickinson, William & Mary, Northwestern, and NC State. The Commodores are 3-5 ATS.
The over/under for the game is set at 137.5 points. Vanderbilt is -155 on the money line with Pitt the underdogs at +135. The over has hit in five of the Panthers’ nine games.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Pitt-Vanderbilt matchup will air on the SEC Network with tipoff scheduled for 9 p.m. Roy Philpott and Dane Bradshaw have the call from Memorial Gymnasium. The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt’s returns home to begin a two-game home stand on back-to-back Saturdays. The Panthers face Sacred Heart beginning at 3:30 p.m. airing on the ACC Network.