Pittsburgh vs Virginia Preview
(Image-Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
After a schedule reshuffling, Virginia will face the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday at 4 PM Eastern Time at John Paul Jones Arena. An inconsistent team so far this season, the Panthers are currently tied for 6th place in the turbulent ACC.
What Pittsburgh has done this season
With a 9-5 overall record (5-4 in the ACC), Pitt is coming off their best performance of the season, an 83-72 home victory against Virginia Tech. It was quite the turnaround after a 26-point beatdown at the hands of Notre Dame last Saturday. That sums up their season to this point. They’ve proven capable of beating good teams, with victories over the Hokies, Duke, and a sweep of Syracuse. While also absorbing bad losses to Wake Forest and St. Francis.
Breaking Down Pittsburgh
The Panthers feature ACC Player of the Year candidate, forward Justin Champagnie. The 6’6 sophomore is averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. An efficient three-level scoring threat, he’s a problem. Along with junior Au’Diese Toney (14.6 ppg), they form an interchangeable wing tandem. The key to Pitt’s success might be explosive point guard Xavier Johnson. He scored a career best 32 points against Virginia Tech. Interestingly, it came off the bench as Head Coach Jeff Capel removed him from the starting lineup for the first time this year.
The rest of the supporting cast isn’t that strong. Delaware transfer Ithiel Horton provides needed shooting. He’s their only proficient threat from behind the arc, other than Champagnie. They’ll alternate a pair of blue-collar big men that are in there to rebound and defend. Eight or nine usually play, but there’s a steep dropoff in quality beyond the primary five.
Pitts gets to the foul line a lot, the most of any team in ACC-play. It’s important to limit them to one shot. They’re a terrific offensive rebounding team. Both of those things are largely a byproduct of paint touches from their three star players. It’s a good matchup for Jay Huff today, if he can avoid picking up fouls as a help-defender.
Virginia will win if the Hoos do the little things we've come to expect. Keep Pitt out of transition and limit them to one shot.
Pittsburgh will win if the Panthers can disrupt UVA's offensive rhythm, force turnovers, and get hot from behind the three-point arc.
Score Prediction: Virginia 68 Pittsburgh 58