Since FSU hired Stan Wilcox as the Athletic Director, there's been a lot of talk about modernizing the basketball program. A lot of that talk has centered around the decrepit Tuck, which the university now owns. If FSU is looking for a model on how to rethink the arena, today's trip to the Peterson Event Center in Pittsburgh should open a few eyes. There are a number of great venues in college basketball - Cameron Indoor (Duke), The Pit (New Mexico), The Palestra (Philadelphia's Big 5) - and Pitt's gym belongs in that conversation. They honor the students at Pitt, giving them three sides of the floor, while also rewarding boosters who support the program. The atmosphere is electric. The student section is always full. And the season tickets have sold out every year since the place opened.
Obviously FSU doesn't have that kind of basketball following, but the logistics of game day at the Peterson Event Center should be studied by a lot of schools, including FSU.
Pitt (20-6, 8-5) is struggling a bit after a great start. The Panthers were 18-2, 6-1 at one point, but a tougher stretch of the ACC schedule has caught up to them. They've lost four of six (to the top four teams in the conference) and needed OT in the two games they did win. Now in 5th place, Pitt needs to rally in order to get a top-4 seed in the ACC tourney and the double-bye that comes with it.
They're led by 6-5 senior Lamar Patterson who should be a lock for 1st team All ACC. Patterson is a versatile player listed as a small forward, but really he represents the evolution of the game in which positions are becoming less and less meaningful. He's averaging 17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 4.3 assists. He makes 40% of his 3s, and half his 2s. In the past four games he's attempted an average of 7.5 3s per game. Defensively, he's 8th in the ACC in steal%.
Other than Patterson, Pitt doesn't attempt a lot of 3s. Despite some height limitations, they do their work inside and at the line. 6-9 junior Talib Zanna is scoring 12.4 per game and grabbing 7.9 boards. He's an excellent rebounder, especially on the offensive end, and has the 2nd highest FT Rate in the conference. His combination of quickness and strength will present a matchup problem for FSU.
Cameron Wright is the other double digit scorer at 10.7 per game. The 6-4 junior certainly isn't your prototypical scoring guard, but he uses his athleticism to attack the rim on offense and be a shut down defender on the other end. He's paired in the back court with sophomore point guard James Robinson. Robinson was chosen to run Team USA's U-19 team this summer and is a steadying force for Pitt.
The 5th starter is 6-8 freshman Michael Young, who is a bull. He's still learning how to play at this level though, and has only scored in double figures once in ACC play.
Overall, Pitt is a solid, balanced team. They have the No. 23 rated offense in the nation, and the No. 19 defense, so it's no surprise that they are a solid 9-point favorite in this evening's game. They grind out possessions on both ends of the floor, and have the 305th tempo nationally.
For FSU's slim tournament hopes, this is a game they really need. The Noles are solidly on the wrong side of the bubble, and a road win against a top 40 RPI team wouldn't put them back on the right side, but it would at least get them back into the conversation.
The game tips at 6pm and will be broadcast on ESPNU.