clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Next Up - Pitt

Time: 1:00 || Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium || Video: CBS

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Virginia Tech
Dec 31, 2016; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Harry Giles (1) shoots against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the first half at Cassell Coliseum. 
Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve talked a lot this season about how unbelievably competitive the ACC is this year. It’s really like nothing we can ever remember seeing.

So #15 Pitt went to #1 UNC this past week and took the Tar Heels to the absolute limit, only yielding when a last-second three was off the mark.

Can they play that well at Duke on Saturday?

We’ll have to see, but the Panthers are viewing the UNC game as a catalyst.

And honestly they need something. Pitt has now lost seven straight and is 1-8 in the ACC. Included are some close games - Pitt lost to State by five, Clemson by seven and of course UNC by two.

On the other hand, Miami handled the Panthers easily, winning by 26 at Pitt, and Louisville beat the sense out the Panthers, winning by 55 - again at Pitt.

It was the worst home court loss in the history of the ACC, and that takes in some pretty bad teams, notably Wake Forest under Bob Staack and BC last season. There have just been some truly dreadful teams since the conference started in 1957 and none of them lost at home by 55.

And Pitt has some serious talent too - seniors Jamel Artis (6-7) and Michael Young (6-9) are averaging 20.9 ppg and 20.3 ppg respectively.

Cameron Johnson, a 6-8 PG who former coach Jamie Dixon talked about running at point guard, averages 12.2 and against UNC he shot 9-13 and finished with 24 points.

Sheldon Jeter and Chris Jones , 6-7 and 6-6, are both seniors and highly experienced.

Pitt has some talent then, but like any team with a new coach, they’re adapting. And what Kevin Stallings runs is a lot different than what Jamie Dixon did.

Dixon won consistently, although his scheduling was positively Sendekian and his offense was bland and boring.

When you schedule patsies and bore your fans half to death, well, why would they keep coming out? And on top of that, Dixon never did any damage in the post-season.

Still, Pitt has been Stalling, if you will. Coach Stallings said earlier that they had relished the offensive freedom of his system but not embraced the defensive responsibilities. They didn’t play with a lot of heart, he said, and tended to lose their focus.

The players naturally haven’t spoken out against their new coach, but their play has said a lot.

Of course transitions can be positive too: just look at Dixon. Now at TCU, he’s 15-7 and has had the Horny Toads at least in discussion as a bubble team. We’re pretty sure the offense is still boring and the schedule is about what you’d expect, but 15-7 is a treat for TCU so cheers for Dixon and the Horned Frogs.

There were a few reasonable opponents actually, including consecutive games against Washington, both of which TCU won.

Pitt has one other major problem on Saturday, and that’s the emotional nature of the return of Coach K.

Out for nearly a month after back surgery, Coach K’s return will light a fire in Cameron and presumably under his players as well.

It’s going to be a unique game in the history of Cameron and Stallings is fully aware. He hasn’t been to Cameron, at least not as a coach (we wouldn’t know otherwise)

During K’s absence, acting head coach Jeff Capel dealt with the issues Duke has had all season - injuries, uncertain roles - and ultimately improved his team.

So we’ll see what happens now with Coach K picking up the reins. When he took a leave of absence in 1995, his first game back the next season he got a technical about three minutes into his first game.

We expect Duke to come out with a lot of fire. Pitt might match it - that’s one really good three point shooting team - but K’s return and a highly charged Cameron will be significant problems for the Panthers to overcome.

We’re not saying they can’t - we’re not forgetting Chapel Hill and we’re sure it’s come up in team meetings - but they’ll have to match Duke’s level of intensity. And Stallings himself has identified intensity as a major problem for his team.

If you're going to shop Amazon please start here and help DBR | Drop us a line