After surviving to kick-start ACC play against Syracuse, 84-82, the Pitt Panthers return home to face the 2022 NCAA runner-up. Pitt faces No. 25 North Carolina at the Petersen Events Center Friday in its first home ACC game.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (9-4, 2-0 ACC) matchup against the UNC Tar Heels (9-4, 1-1).
Dior Johnson reinstated, Will Redshirt
On Wednesday, Pittsburgh Sports Now’s George Michalowski broke the news that freshman guard Dior Johnson has been reinstated by the Pitt men’s basketball program. Johnson faced six charges, later reduced to two, dating from an arrest in early October. The four-star recruit pleaded guilty to misdemeanor strangulation and Simple Assault charges on Dec. 9. Johnson was suspended on Oct. 7 following felony domestic abuse charges.
“Obviously I’m always thinking about our program, but you’ve got a young guy that we’re trying to teach,” head coach Jeff Capel told reporters including PSN’s Dominic Campbell. “I still think we’re in the business of teaching, at least that’s why I got into this thing and helping young people and I feel like he’s a kid that we can help, and we’re going to try and help him.”
A 6-foot-3 guard from Saugerties, New York, Johnson is Pitt’s highest recruit of the Jeff Capel area. He has returned to practice and according to Michalowski, plans to redshirt for the current 2022-23 season.
From START to Finish
The Pitt starting five dominated the distribution of minutes against Syracuse. Jorge Diaz Graham and Nike Sibande combined for 24 minutes, while Diaz Graham performed strongly recording nine points and five rebounds. The combination of Nelly Cummings, Blake Hinson, Greg Elliott, Jamarius Burton, and Federiko Federiko scored 75 of 84 points. Elliott played every minute of play, Hinson contributed 39, Cummings played 38 minutes, and Burton added 36.
A heavy workload, if not managed well, could become a detriment to the Panthers’ long-term success this season. On the other hand, John Hugley did not play. Despite facing a new unexpected role on the team, he could become an additional piece to the puzzle.
Hinson is averaging 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds to pace the Panthers in both categories. Burton has blossomed into a dependable veteran guard capable of stabilizing the group of newcomers. He scores 14.4 points and grabs 5 rebounds per contest. Pitt almost allowed Syracuse to prevail from a 20-point deficit but closed the door at the end.
The sixth episode of Just Buckets with Jamarius Burton and hosted by Pittsburgh Sports Now‘s George Michalowski featuring William Jeffress is now available.
Off Their Heels
North Carolina entered the 2022-23 season as the consensus No. 1 team in the country. The Tar Heels reached the 2022 NCAA Championship last season as a No. 8 seed, blowing a 16-point lead to Kansas on the sport’s greatest stage. Second-year coach Hubert Davis witnessed his Heels start the year incredibly slow, squeaking out victories against Gardner-Webb and Portland. Poor shooting performances and the lack of a collective defensive presence resulted in a 70-65 loss to Iowa State and a four-overtime defeat to Alabama, both in Portland.
UNC lost four in a row, dropping 77-65 at Indiana and 80-72 to begin ACC play at Virginia Tech. The team has yet to win a true road game. The Heels dropped out of the top 25 following the skid but rebounded to rejoin ranked company with wins against Ohio State and Michigan. Tied for 28th in scoring (81.5 points), North Carolina appears to be hitting its stride. In all of DI basketball, UNC is tied for 20th in rebounds (37.5), tied for 85th in turnovers (11.5), and tied for 82nd in free-throw percentage (73.5%).
Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Armando Bacot, and Leaky Black all returned to the Tar Heels in anticipation of another national championship run. Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek utilized his final year of eligibility in his only season as a Heel, with Northwestern transfer Pete Nance filling his role. Nance connected on a buzzer-beating fadeaway to send the Ohio State game to overtime and an eventual victory. Love paces the team with 18.3 points and 3.8 assists while Bacot – a double-double machine- is close behind, averaging 18.2 points and 11.1 rebounds. Davis (15.9) and Nance (11.8) round out the UNC scoring, which doesn’t utilize its bench often, as Black brings toughness to the defensive end.
North Carolina is favored by 5 points in Friday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Panthers are 9-3-1 ATS this year, according to Covers.com, and have dominated recently covering the spread. Pitt covered the past eight games in a row against Fairleigh Dickinson, William & Mary, Northwestern, NC State, Vanderbilt, Sacred Heart, North Florida, and Syracuse. The Heels are 4-8-1 ATS and the over has been reached in seven opportunities.
The over/under for the game is set at 148.5 points. Pitt is +195 on the money line with UNC favored at -240, according to Barstool Sportsbook. The over has hit in eight of the Panthers’ 13 matchups.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Pitt-North Carolina matchup will air on the ACC Network beginning at 12 p.m. Doug Sherman and Chris Spatola have the call from the Pete. The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt hosts No. 13 Virginia on Tuesday, Jan. 3 in the middle of a three-game home stretch ending against Clemson on Jan. 7. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.