Prediction: Short-handed UNC to beat Pitt

The+Pitt+men%E2%80%99s+basketball+team+opened+the+season+with+a+victory+over+No.+10+Florida+State+only+to+fall+to+the+little-known+Nicholls+State+the+following+game.%0A
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Prediction: Short-handed UNC to beat Pitt

The Pitt men’s basketball team opened the season with a victory over No. 10 Florida State only to fall to the little-known Nicholls State the following game.

The Pitt men’s basketball team opened the season with a victory over No. 10 Florida State only to fall to the little-known Nicholls State the following game.

Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

The Pitt men’s basketball team opened the season with a victory over No. 10 Florida State only to fall to the little-known Nicholls State the following game.

Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

The Pitt men’s basketball team opened the season with a victory over No. 10 Florida State only to fall to the little-known Nicholls State the following game.

By Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

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Pitt men’s basketball (10-4, 1-2 ACC) will travel to Chapel Hill Wednesday night to face off against the North Carolina Tar Heels (8-6, 1-2 ACC). Both teams are eager to avenge their respective ACC losses from last Saturday, with Pitt looking to defeat the Tar Heels at one of their lowest points in years. 

The Panthers’ season so far has been marked by inconsistency. They opened with an eye-opening victory over Florida State, currently ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25 poll, but followed up by losing to little-known Nicholls State in their next game. 

Pitt convincingly defeated a Rutgers squad making noise in the Big Ten, only to lose to a Wake Forest team slated to finish near the bottom of the ACC. The Panthers are losing games that they must win in order to be competitive this season.

The decision-making of Pitt sophomore guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens has much to do with the team’s erratic nature. At their best, the duo can take games over through sheer willpower. At their worst, however, they are plagued by turnovers and mental mistakes. 

This was on full display at the end of the Wake Forest game. Trailing by one with the ball for the final possession, Johnson decided to take a jumper with three Demon Deacon defenders draped all over him instead of passing the ball outside to a wide open junior guard Ryan Murphy. He did so with seven seconds left on the clock, giving Wake Forest the opportunity to shoot two free throws. It made only one, giving the Panthers a chance to tie the game. 

McGowens got the ball and took a heavily contested layup instead of passing to an open man. Head coach Jeff Capel must iron out these mental flaws if the Panthers want to make some noise in the ACC this year.

North Carolina has stumbled out of the gate in this year’s campaign for two reasons — injuries and lack of depth. These factors have resulted in one of head coach Roy Williams’ weakest squads to date. 

The Tar Heels have been most affected by the loss of star first-year point guard Cole Anthony. He is out indefinitely with a knee injury and his absence has loomed large for the team. Prior to his injury, Anthony led the team in scoring with 19.1 PPG. North Carolina hasn’t been able to replace his production due to fellow guards Anthony Harris and Andrew Platek also being injured. 

While injuries have ravaged the Tar Heels’ backcourt, the frontcourt has remained healthy and been one of the bright spots in an underwhelming season thus far. Junior forward Garrison Brooks has played especially well, averaging 13.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

Though an 8-6 overall record is not what we’ve come to expect from North Carolina, the Tar Heels played a rigorous non-conference schedule that explains their subpar record. They fell to dominant teams such as Michigan, Ohio State, Virginia and Gonzaga. 

Perhaps the lowest point and most inexcusable loss of North Carolina’s season came last Saturday when it lost at home against Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels trailed 32-8 early in the contest to a Yellow Jackets team that was projected to finish dead last in the ACC. 

While North Carolina’s guards are on the mend, someone needs to step up alongside Brooks if the Tar Heels want to turn this season around and stop the ship from sinking. 

PREDICTION:

The Tar Heels will be the ones to avenge last Saturday’s horrendous loss. In this matchup between two unpredictable teams, North Carolina’s homecourt advantage will provide the edge it needs to win. 

In addition to playing in a tough road atmosphere, the Panthers are also at a disadvantage in the rebounding department. North Carolina averages eight more rebounds per game and should have its way on the boards, leading to a victory in the first of two meetings between these teams. 

UNC 77, Pitt 70

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