Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh
Date: Saturday, February 16
TV: RSN (Affiliate List)
No. 16/22 Virginia Tech (19-5, 8-4) will take on the Pitt Panthers (12-13, 2-10) on Saturday afternoon on the road. A win for the Hokies would give them their fourth consecutive 20-win season for just the second time in school history, and would clinch at least a .500 record in ACC play.
Pitt is led by former Oklahoma head coach and Duke assistant Jeff Capel, who is in his first season. This is a team that showed some signs of life early in their ACC schedule, starting out 2-2 with victories over Louisville and Florida State, and a close loss to NC State. That was a great start, considering the Panthers didn’t win a single conference game a year ago.
Then reality set in. Syracuse beat the Panthers 74-63 in the Carrier Dome on January 19, and that was the first of eight consecutive losses for Capel’s team. The last four losses have been pretty close, but that’s partly due to the competition level. Pitt was defeated by a bad Wake Forest team in overtime, and played BC to a nine-point game. They also lost to a solid NC State team by three at home. Still, this team is reeling right now, and though they’ve had some trouble on both ends of the court, their primary issues are on the offensive end.
Here is their offensive production in their 8-game losing streak…
Wake Forest: 76 (OT)
NC State: 76
Average: 64 ppg
They were better against Wake Forest and NC State, but didn’t break 70 points in the other six losses. Their numbers in conference play tell the tale…
Offensive Efficiency (Pomeroy): No. 13
Effective FG%: No. 13
Turnover Rate: No. 12
Offensive Rebound Rate: No. 5
3-Pt.%: No. 12
2-Pt.%: No. 14
FT%: No. 13
Pitt has turned the ball over too much, and they have either struggled to get good looks, or there aren’t enough good shooters on the roster. The issue is most likely their execution of the offense rather than their shooting ability, though their free throw percentage would suggest otherwise.
Speaking of free throws, getting to the line is something the Panthers do well. They are first in ACC play in free throw attempts per field goal attempt. 23.4% of their points in conference play have come from the free throw line, which is also first in the league. However, those numbers could be even better if Pitt could convert at a better rate. They have made just 68.7% of their free throws in conference play. As a comparison, Virginia Tech is No. 1 in the ACC at 78.8%.
Eight different players have started for Pitt this season, and as of the time of this writing they have not released any game notes for Saturday’s game. Here’s the starting lineup Jeff Capel went with in their most recent game with Boston College…
G Xavier Johnson (6-3, 190, Fr.): 16.6 ppg, 113 assists. Johnson was a spring signee out of Bishop O’Connell in Woodbridge, VA. The Hokies evaluated him, but did not offer. He’s having a great freshman season for Pitt, hitting 38.8% of his three-pointers and over 80% of his free throws. He struggles with turnovers at this stage of his career, but his future looks very good. He’s capable of getting hot and having a huge game, but he’s also capable of going 3-of-19 from the field, as he did this past week against Boston College.
G Trey McGowens (6-3, 185, Fr.): 12.2 ppg, 52 steals. McGowens is Pitt’s second-leading scorer, and he leads the team with 52 steals. However, he also has more turnovers (68) than assists (44), and he’s only shooting 29.3% from the outside.
G Sidy N’Dir (6-3, 180, r-Sr.): 6 ppg, 2.1 rpg. N’Dir is from France, and he’s a transfer from New Mexico State.
G Au’diese Toney (6-6, 210, Fr.): 8.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg. Toney is one of three freshmen who could start for Pitt against the Hokies. He’s struggled with his shot this year, shooting only 36.3% from the field and 25% from three-point range.
C Terrell Brown (6-10, 230, So.): 5.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg. Brown is one of only two players in Pitt’s playing rotation that is taller than 6-6. Like many teams around the country these days, they prefer a smaller lineup.
The Panthers used eight players in their most recent game against Boston College, so they do not have a significant depth advantage against the Hokies.
Even with Justin Robinson out, Virginia Tech will have a big experience advantage in this game, facing a Pitt team that likely will start three freshmen. The Hokies will likely find offensive open looks harder to come by than they did on Wednesday against Georgia Tech’s 1-3-1 zone defense.
Pitt has been a much different team at home this season. They are 0-8 on the road, but 10-5 inside Petersen Events Center. The Hokies are 3-4 away from home, but if they can pick up a win against the Panthers they’ll have three more road wins than home losses.