The basketball season continues onward whether we like it or not and we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward! Anyway it’s Pittsburgh this time. An improved Pittsburgh team, one that’s close to being a true bubble-type team, which is a big leap forward from that 0-18 league record in 2018.
The Panthers are in a similar spot to NC State, as they’ve lost five of six. They have some solid wins at home this year, though: Duke, Virginia Tech, Syracuse.
— Pitt was one of the worst shooting teams in the country last season, both inside and out. It’s still not a good shooting team, but going from completely terrible to within shouting distance of average still makes a substantial difference. The Panthers also rebound the ball well offensively (they kinda need to) and they are getting to the line plenty. (But unfortunately don’t make free throws at a good clip.)
— Individually, Pitt is led by sophomore forward Justin Champagnie, who is averaging 18.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, making him a leading candidate for ACC Player of the Year. His improvement has had a lot to do with the team’s improvement at the offensive end. He accounts for 27% of Pitt’s shots while he is on the court and he’s shooting over 58% inside the arc despite the workload. He’s also become more of a perimeter threat, knocking down 36% from three after shooting 26% as a freshman.
— On the defensive side, Pitt has been unreliable this season, but far from a disaster. In league play, the Panthers haven’t been disruptive, either in terms of forcing turnovers or blocking shots, and ACC opponents are shooting 53% inside the arc. But they’ve been solid on the glass and they’re forcing opponents into a lot of three-point attempts.
— KenPom likes Pitt by three.