Time: Noon on Saturday
TV: The ACC Network (affiliate listing)
Virginia Tech (11-4, 0-2) will be looking to put their bad 0-2 start to ACC play behind them when they host the struggling Pitt Panthers in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. Pitt has gone downhill ever since Jamie Dixon departed for TCU and Kevin Stallings took over the program. However, they are catching the Hokies at the right time after two double-digit losses to Syracuse and Virginia.
Tech has struggled to shoot the basketball over the last four games, and things got even worse against the Orange and the ‘Hoos. The offense itself did not work, ball movement wasn’t crisp, and open shots were few and far between. Pitt isn’t anywhere near as good defensively as Syracuse and UVA, but they do have some Pack Line elements to their defense, according to Buzz Williams. The Hokies will have to play much better on Saturday than they did in their first two games.
Kevin Stallings went 16-17 at Pitt in his first season, and there was some dissension among the players. This year the Panthers are 8-7 overall, with an 0-2 mark in ACC play. They’ve lost to Navy and Montana, as well as every good team they have faced. As bad as Tech looked against UVA on Wednesday, Pitt looked just as bad in a 77-51 loss to Louisville. This is a team that has hasn’t been great on either end of the floor, but their offense is quite a bit behind their defense at this point in the season.
Offensive Efficiency: No. 252
Effective FG%: No. 144
Rebound %: No. 227
Turnovers per Possession: No. 295
Defensive Efficiency: No. 127
Opponent Effective FG%: No. 69
Opponent Turnovers per Possession: No. 271
The Panthers haven’t been a great defensive team, but that is certainly their strength. They have had a lot of trouble scoring, and they have yet to score more than 53 points in each of their first two ACC games. Considering Tech’s struggles offensively recently, this game might not be particularly exciting.
Here’s a look at Pitt’s projected starting lineup…
G Marcus Carr (6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 10.9 points per game and four assists per game. Carr is a 45.5 percent shooter from three-point range.
G Parker Stewart (6-foot-5, 190 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 7.1 ppg and 2.5 rebounds per game. Stewart is averaging 11 ppg over his last four games.
G Jared Wilson-Frame (6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Jr.): Averaging 12.4 ppg and 3.7 rpg. Wilson-Frame has made a team-high 29 three-pointers.
G/F Shamiel Stevenson (6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 10.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg. Stevenson has scored 10 or more points in this last two games.
C Terrell Brown (6-foot-10, 240 pounds, Fr.): Averaging 2.8 ppg and 2.3 rpg. Brown starts on the inside for Pitt, though his minutes and production are limited.
It’s easy to see why the Panthers have had such a tough start to the season. It is difficult to win with four freshmen in the starting lineup. It also doesn’t help that they lost their best player to injury. Ryan Luther (6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Sr.) averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds through the first 10 games of the season before he was lost to a stress fracture in his foot. He will miss Saturday’s game in Blacksburg, and the timetable for his return is unknown at this point.
Without Luther, Pitt will continue to be a freshmen-laden team with very little depth. They could play as few as eight players against Virginia Tech on Saturday. Size is also a big issue, and this is one of the few times this season that the Hokies will not be completely outmatched from a size standpoint.
It’s very important that the Hokies get back to their winning ways on Saturday. They have not played well since they nearly pulled the upset at Kentucky, and they have looked particularly lost offensively in ACC play. Saturday’s game, as well as Wednesday’s game at Wake Forest, need to be used as stepping stones to getting back on the right track.