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Pitt Basketball

Five Things to Know Before Pitt at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg



The Panthers have won six games in a row and remain atop the ACC standings entering the weekend. Pitt defeated Boston College in blowout fashion Tuesday, 77-58, and travel to Blacksburg, Virginia Saturday to face Virginia Tech. 

Here are five things to know ahead of the Pitt’s (19-7, 12-3 ACC) matchup against the Virginia Tech Hokies (15-11, 5-10 ACC). 

Federiko’s Physical Defense

The impact of Federiko Federiko on the men’s basketball program has not gone unnoticed. There was not much buzz around the acquisition of the center from Northern Oklahoma entering the 2022-23 campaign, but his rebounding and defensive abilities have solidified him to be a fixture in the starting lineup. 

“He does a really good job in ball screen defense,” Capel said. “He’s able to get out and show hard or if we go to drop, which we don’t do much. But he also can clean some things up. If guys maybe get beat, he’s able to be there and lock shots, he had three blocks tonight. He’s alert, he’s active, he gives great energy, and it’s a big-time thing for us.” 

Federiko (10 points) joined Blake Hinson (21), Greg Elliott (14), Nelly Cummings (11), and Jamarius Burton (10) scoring in double figures against BC. He also added seven rebounds and is averaging 6.1 points per game and 5.8 rebounds. His toughness, rim protection, and ability to block shots have clogged up the paint for opposing offenses. 

ACC Down Year? Not to Capel, Who’s Named to Coach of the Year Watch

The 2022-23 ACC season has been characterized by media outlets as having a ‘down year’ compared to other seasons and leagues. Pitt remains unranked and placed No. 29 in the AP Top 25 despite leading the conference. Staples Duke, North Carolina, and Syracuse are all unranked and in the middle of the conference standings, though Capel does not think the ACC criticism is warranted. 

“I definitely think it’s unfair and not true what’s been said about our league. I think our league is really good,” Capel said. “Other leagues are really good, some of them may only have 10 teams when we have 15. We have a team that’s in the top 10 in the country, and two other teams in the Top 25. We have a team that was preseason ranked No. 1 and spent time at No. 1. Another team that was at one point in the top 5 and another team in Virginia Tech that at one point was a top 20 team.”

Capel was one of 15 coaches named a late-season finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award. The Panthers have won their most ACC games of all time (12), breaking the previous record of 11 in the inaugural 2013-14 season. Pitt was projected to finish in 14th place to start the season. 

VT Home Cooking

Up, down… up, down… up, down has been the story of Virginia Tech’s season. The Hokies are fantastic at home (11-3) yet are dreadful on the road (1-8).  VT is second in the conference in field-goal percentage (47.2%) and thrives on playing on its home floor. Conference home victories for the Hokies include Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia, netting Pitt as a road underdog. 

“It’s very difficult,” Capel said.  “It’s a great environment. They have a great fan base. It gets loud. It helps that they’re good. They feed off of each other.”

Wright State grad transfer forward Grant Basile stars for VT, averaging a team-best 16.5 points and a solid 5.7 rebounds while shooting 51.6%. Capel pointed to forward Justyn Mutts for his all-around abilities and overall leadership. Mutts averages 13.4 points, and team-highs in rebounds (7.4) and assists (4.9). Guard Sean Pedulla adds 15.5 points in over 35 minutes. 

“They’re older, they have a good core group of guys back,” Capel said. “They’re really good offensively. They have experience. They’re well-coached. It’s a tough environment to play in down there.”

Spread, Over/Under

Virginia Tech is favored by 5.5 points in Saturday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with the line continuing to shift VT’s way.

The Panthers are 19-6-1 ATS this year, according to Pitt is by far the ACC’s best team covering the spread and the best in the country, covering the last five games against Miami, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, and Boston College. The Hokies are 10-16 ATS and the over has hit in 16 of 26 attempts.

The over/under for the game is set at 145 points. Virginia Tech is -230 on the money line while Pitt sits at +230. The Panthers are 15-11 in opportunities to hit the over. 

Broadcast, Radio Info

The Pitt-Virginia Tech matchup will air on the ACC Network beginning at 5 p.m. Wes Durham and Dan Bonner have the call from Blacksburg. The game will also be broadcast live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.

Pitt returns home to play the first of two games to close the conference schedule, hosting Georgia Tech at 7 p.m.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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