Pitt fans grew weary of going to the NCAA Tournament on an annual basis, and so they ran long time head coach Jamie Dixon out of town. Surprisingly, hot young coaches failed to line up to take the job, so they signed on with Kevin Stallings, who had seemingly lost his way at Vanderbilt.
Now in Stallings first season at the helm Pitt is one of three ACC teams not projected as a lock or on the bubble for the dance.
It’s not for a lack of talent. Two of the top three scorers in the ACC play for Pitt. Senior Michael Young - a 6-9 power forward - has started every game in his Panthers’ career. He’s averaging 20.7 points per game and has six double-doubles on the year, and has scored 25+ eight times. He’s a capable 3-pt shooter (37%), but does most of his damage on the interior and from the line.
Fellow senior Jamel Artis - a grown man who is 24-years-old - has started his past 90 games for Pitt. He’s 6-7, and can score from anywhere. He’s a 41% 3-pt shooter, and is averaging 19.7 per game. He’s capable of huge games, dropping 43 earlier this year on Louisville.
Both Artis and Young play about 34 minutes a game, as does 6-8 redshirt sophomore Cameron Johnson. Johnson is a 3-pt specialist, making 43% of his attempts.
Senior Chris Jones is the fourth player who averages over 30 minutes per game and he scores mostly on the interior. He’s 6-6, and is the smallest of Pitt’s starting five.
Shelden Jeter, a 6-8 senior who Stallings refused to give a transfer release while at Vanderbilt, plays 29 minutes a game and leads the team with 7.5 rebounds.
All of this adds up to the 3rd most experienced high major team in the nation. They run an efficient, slow offense.
But the reason they won’t be dancing is their defense. They’re 14th in conference-only games, and haven’t held an ACC team below a point per possession all year. This is strange, considering they beat Maryland, Penn State, and Marquette in out-of-conference play, primarily due to playing good defense. In ACC play, however, they’ve been a bit of a disaster.
They do keep teams off the line, and they’re at least an average defensive rebounding team, but they give up tons of open looks. If FSU is crisp and careful with the ball, they’ll just need to knock down open shots.
The game tips at 4 PM and will be broadcast on ESPN2. FSU is a 5 1⁄2 point favorite.