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Five Things to Know Before Pitt vs. North Carolina

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Coming off of a two-game winning streak to sit in sole possession of third place in the ACC, Pitt basketball plays at one of the most iconic venues in all of sports Wednesday. The Panthers face the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill at the Dean Smith Center as the No. 3 and No. 4 teams in the ACC standings clash.

Here are five things to know ahead of the Pitt Panthers’ (15-7, 8-3 ACC) matchup against the UNC Tar Heels (15-6, 7-3 ACC). 

4 of 5 on Pitt’s Side

First entering the ACC, North Carolina dominated Pitt and won the 2017 National Championship. Over the past five matchups, the Panthers have turned the tide. Pitt has won four of the last five against UNC and is the last team to defeat the Heels inside the Smith Center. North Carolina has won its past 14 home games since losing to Pitt.

The Panthers won by two, 76-74, at the Petersen Events Center on Dec. 30. Jamarius Burton powered the Panthers to victory. Burton scored a career-high 31 points on 14-of-17 shooting and three triples. The Tar Heels were ranked No. 25 at the time and have since found themselves out of the Top 25. Burton was named Player of the Week by NCAA.com writer Andy Katz for his historic performance and for guiding Pit to the upset victory. 

Bubble Watch

Pitt remains on bubble watch as February begins, putting itself in solid standing to make a realistic run at the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers sit as one of the last teams in according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, playing a first-four game in Dayton, Ohio. Lunardi projects Pitt as a No. 11 seed, facing the Penn State Nittany Lions hours away from Oakland, 

The Panthers have not clinched a spot in March Madness since 2016, losing as a No. 10 seed to Wisconsin 47-43. Penn State has not made the tournament since 2011. Both programs are on their second full-time head coach since last earning a bid.

Tar Heels Turnaround

North Carolina has won six of its last seven games since losing to Pitt, falling to now No. 7 65-58 Virginia in Charlottesville. RJ Davis dealt with swelling this week after being poked in the eye at the end of last week’s game against Syracuse but is expected to play Wednesday. The Tar Heels sit fourth in the ACC, just behind the Panthers, and have won four in a row. Head coach Hubert Davis praised the Panthers offensive abilities and pieces surrounding Burton. 

“They’re more than just Burton,” Davis said. “They got a number of playmakers that not only can make plays for others but can make plays for themselves. They have a number of guys that can create a shot at any given time throughout their offensive possession.”

A veteran group led by Player of the Year candidate Armando Bacot, named to the Top 20 Watch List for the 2023 John Wooden Award, Carolina is a perfect 10-0 at home this season. Pitt has the advantage in three-point shooting, The Panthers are 28th in the country averaging 9.1 threes per game compared to 6.8 for the Heels. Bacot averages a double-double with 17.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest while Davis (16.4), Caleb Love (16.2), and Pete Nance (10.9) contribute to the second-highest scoring conference team (79.2). 

Spread, Over/Under

North Carolina is favored by 8.5 points in Wednesday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook

The Panthers are 15-6-1 ATS this year, according to Covers.com. Pitt is the ACC’s best team covering the spread and covered against Miami after failing in meetings with Florida State and Wake Forest. North Carolina is 7-13-1 ATS and the over has been reached in 10 of 21 opportunities. 

The over/under for the game is set at 146.5 points. UNC is -390 on the money line while Pitt sits at +320. The Panthers are 13-9 in opportunities to hit the over. Pitt is 5-2 overall on the road this season.

Broadcast, Radio Info

The Pitt-North Carolina matchup will air on the ACC Network beginning at 7 p.m. Wes Durham and Don Bonner have the call on Roy Williams Court. The game will also be broadcast live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan. 

Pitt returns home to battle Louisville Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The Cardinals are 0-10 in ACC play and the Panthers defeated them by 21 earlier this year.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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