Pitt and Wake Forest are set to square off inside the Petersen Events Center Wednesday night and shuffle the deck on a log-jammed upper echelon of ACC teams.
The Panthers (13-7, 6-3 ACC) and Demon Deacons (15-4, 6-3 ACC) make up two of five teams deadlocked for third place in conference play, tied with Miami, North Carolina, and Syracuse.
Pitt has relied on impactful transfers to power its turnaround following a 6-14 finish last season – tied for 11th in the ACC. First-year Panthers Blake Hinson, Greg Elliott, Nelly Cummings, and Federiko Federiko slot alongside graduate guard Jamarius Burton to form an all-transfer starting lineup for Jeff Capel.
Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes spoke highly of the transition Capel has created for the program in anticipation of the showdown.
“Jeff has done the same thing,” Forbes said Monday. “Jamarius Burton has been around so long, I recruited him at East Tennessee State, he came on a visit, which is crazy when you think about it. Then, he went to Wichita, and he’s having an unbelievable year. Blake Hinson was somebody that we took a hard look at coming out when he left Ole Miss before he went to Iowa State, he’s playing outstanding. Greg Elliott, we looked at him, he can shoot it. I’m really happy for Jeff.”
Burton (16.5), Hinson (15.8), Elliott (10.6), and Cummings (10.2) are the Panthers top four scorers, each averaging in excess of 29 minutes per game. Despite the loss to Florida State, Pitt is 8-3 at home and has taken care of opponents including Virginia and UNC inside the Pete.
“They got off to an unbelievable start in the league and just lost a close one to Clemson, but they’re playing great. They’re physical, man, they’re really tough,” Forbes added. “In two-point field-goal percentage, I think they’re leading the league. I know it’s going to be a really hard-fought game.”
Pitt ranks third in two-point percentage (53.5%), .2% off the pace of the Deamon Deacons (53.7%). Forbes praised Capel for his comradery and guidance throughout the years.
“I really have a lot of respect for Jeff. He’s been very good to me throughout my career,” Forbes said. “So, we have a very good relationship.”
Wake Forest averages 77.4 points per game and slots second in the conference in overall field goals (46.7%). The Deamon Deacons are the ACC’s No. 1 team in adjusted field-goal percentage (54.7%) through 20 games.