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Heel Tough Blog: Pittsburgh Preview


Doc's Sports


For the final time in 2022, the Tar Heels will take the hardwood, as they begin a stretch of 18 straight ACC games. It’s been nine days since we’ve seen Carolina play basketball, as they defeated Michigan in the inaugural Jumpman Invitational. It was Carolina’s fourth straight win, as the team has responded nicely after a four-game losing streak, that saw the team go from ranked #1 to unranked in less than two weeks. After the win over Michigan, Carolina re-entered the AP Top 25, at #25.


It’s a make-it-or-break-it year most likely for Jeff Capel in Pittsburgh, and right now he’s putting together a quality season, as his Panthers enter today’s game 9-4, including 2-0 in the ACC with wins over NC State and Syracuse. Of their four losses, they were blown out by West Virginia and Michigan, while losing close games to VCU and Vanderbilt. They are led in scoring by Blake Hinson, who averages 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 50% from the field, and 35% from behind the arc. Hinson isn’t the only one averaging double figures scoring as Jamarius Burton (14.4), Nelly Cummings (11.2), and Greg Elliott (11.1), all average double figures scoring. The more impressive part of their players who average double figures, they all shoot at least 35% or better from behind the arc.


After a four-game losing streak, Carolina’s season hung in the balance, and if they didn’t respond, the season could’ve turned into a total disaster. With Carolina currently on a four-game winning streak, it’s safe to say that Hubert Davis and this staff have done a good job keeping things in a positive manner, and it appears that this team is starting to round into form and look like the team that picked to win the ACC, and the favorite to win the national championship.


A grueling non-conference schedule is the best way to prepare for 18 straight ACC games. The good news is that the ACC is once again having a down season, which gives the Heels a great chance to start stacking wins, starting today at Pittsburgh:


  1. Rebounding: After getting out-rebounded in five of the first ten games, Carolina is starting to round into form, and become the type of rebounding team we’re used to seeing from UNC. With that said though, Pittsburgh is also a good rebounding team, as they are 22nd in the country in total rebounding at 40.5 rebounds per game. Hubert Davis has said this season that he doesn’t Armando Bacot to feel the pressure of getting all the rebounds and that it needs to be a “UNC rebounding game”. That’s what it was in the win over Michigan, as Bacot only had 5 rebounds. Carolina will need every player to impact the game on the glass, as that is the best way to control the tempo of today’s game.

  2. Turnovers: This is the third true road game of the season for the Tar Heels, and in the previous two, turnovers were an issue, and that’s the biggest reason why they lost at Indiana and at Virginia Tech. If Carolina can avoid the “pick-six” turnovers that lead to dunks going the other way, and force Pittsburgh to score in the halfcourt, that increases Carolina’s chances of winning.

  3. 3-Point Defense: As mentioned above, all of Pitt’s players that average double figures scoring, all shoot over 35% from behind the three-point line. That means that Carolina needs to be locked in on the perimeter, and close out on shooters. Pittsburgh makes 9 triples per game, Carolina needs to try and make sure they don’t get into double figures of made threes.


Series History: UNC is 15-6 all-time against Pittsburgh, and they are 8-5 against the Panthers since they joined the ACC, but Pitt has won three of the last four contests. The last time they played in the Petersen Center, Carolina won 75-65, as Armando Bacot posted a double-double.


KenPom:


North Carolina - 20th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.5 (10th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.4 (62nd)


Pittsburgh - 70th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 108.9 (54th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.1 (95th)


NET:


North Carolina - 23rd.


Pittsburgh - 73rd.


TV Info: Today’s game tips at 12 PM on the ACC Network.


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