To get a Pittsburgh point of view on today's match-up against the Panthers in Orlando we sat down with Cardiac Hill for a quick Q&A.
Who are the key players for Pittsburgh and why?
Lamar Patterson is the go-to-guy for Pitt. Patterson is a 6-5 fifth year senior forward, and he has had a very good season. Patterson leads the Panthers in scoring and assists, and is one the better passing forwards in the entire country. Patterson has really elevated his game from averaging 10 points a game last season up to 17 this season. Patterson is the team's one consistent outside shooter, and when he is clicking, Pitt is a very tough to handle. Talib Zanna is another key guy for Jamie Dixon's squad. The 6-9 senior center averages 12 points and 8 rebounds and is coming off a monster ACC tournament, including a 19 point, 21 rebound game in a win over North Carolina. James Robinson is another player to watch for Pitt. Robinson is a sophomore and has started every game in his Pitt career to date, and is ninth in the country in assist to turnover ratio. He may not wow a lot of people, but his presence makes Pitt a better team.
What type of basketball does Pittsburgh play on offense and defense?
Pitt has now been to the NCAA tournament in 12 of the past 13 seasons, with Jamie Dixon being at the helm for ten of those appearances. The recipe for the success all these years have been generally the same. Pitt plays tough man to man defense, and they are efficient on offense. Pitt holds true to those principles this year. They only surrender 62 points per game which ranks 22nd nationally. They also led the league in rebounding margin, and on offense they finished third in the ACC in scoring average and assists. Pitt has been labeled by ESPN and national pundits as that tough, physical team, and sometimes their offensive prowess can be overlooked. Pitt can get up and down if they have to, but can play a grind it out type game just the same.
How is Pittsburgh trending and are they capable of making a run?
On February 23, Pitt had a losing streak extended to three games, and some people started to wonder if Pitt would even make the tournament. Pitt closed out the year winning three out of four, all of those wins coming on the road. Pitt also went 2-1 in Greensboro in the ACC Tournament this past weekend, and the Panthers put on a good showing. They dismantled Wake Forest, handled UNC for a good portion of the game, and hung with Virginia until the very end. Pitt playing well in a tournament setting bodes well heading into this weekend. I think Pitt is capable of winning Thursday over Colorado, and giving Florida all they can handle on Saturday. I do not want to say Pitt can beat Florida, but the Panthers have been in a ton of close games with good teams, and anything can happen when it gets under two minutes in a tight ball game.
What has been Pittsburgh's most impressive win this season and what was the reason for that win?
Pitt's best win of the year actually came last Friday in the ACC Tournament over North Carolina. Pitt is a 25 win, 5th place ACC team, and yet they are a 9 seed. Those numbers do not really add up, but if you look for another quality win, you would be hard pressed to find one. Pitt had two big knocks on them this season. For starters, Pitt did not play the greatest non conference schedule. Looking back on it now, Pitt defeated tournament teams Albany and Stanford, and lost to Cincinnati at the buzzer on a neutral floor, but otherwise it was very soft. Pitt's other shortcoming is that they did not have that signature win. Pitt lost to Syracuse twice in the final minute, Virginia twice by 3, points UNC by 4, and Cincinnati by 1. Pitt obviously played all those teams very tough, but seemingly could not finish and get a quality win. Pitt finally pulled that off last weekend over North Carolina. The final score read 80-75, but had Pitt made some foul shots, the game wasn't even that close.
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