Men’s basketball takeaways | Pitt’s rebounding provides a huge advantage, Panthers feel like a team of destiny


Jonathan Guo | Staff Photographer

Junior forward Blake Hinson (2) dribbles down the court during the Pitt men’s basketball game against Syracuse Saturday evening.

By Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

Pitt men’s basketball won both of its home ACC games last week, defeating Georgia Tech 76-68 before beating Syracuse 99-82 on senior night. The Panthers now stand at 21-8 overall, with a 14-4 record in conference play. 

Here are three takeaways from the two contests. 

Pitt’s rebounding provides a huge advantage 

Pitt consistently outpaces its opponents on the boards, and it’s not just a result of its frontcourt. Sophomore center Federiko Federiko and first-year forward Guillermo Diaz Graham both contribute on a nightly basis, but the Panthers’ guards and forwards also supply their fair share of rebounds. Pitt currently sits near the top of the ACC in the stat, and rebounding becoming a teamwide affair is a big reason why. It’s also a testament to the Panthers’ effort in that aspect of the game. 

Pitt won the rebounding battle against Georgia Tech 34 to 22. Federiko led the way with seven boards, including three on the offensive end, while both junior forward Blake Hinson and graduate student guard Nelly Cummings finished with six. 

The Panthers put on a clinic against Syracuse, finishing with 38 rebounds as opposed to the Orange’s 31. Graduate student guard Jamarius Burton paced Pitt with nine boards while Hinson and Federiko each recorded six. The most impressive part of the performance was the Panthers’ 18 offensive boards that translated to 25 second-chance points

Pitt’s rebounding resurgence is an overlooked outcome of their turnaround this season, as its prowess on the glass gives them an advantage in closing out games and limiting opportunities for its opponents. 

The Panthers feel like a team of destiny 

It feels as though Pitt’s entire season culminated against Syracuse. On a night when the program celebrated some of its most important players in recent history, the Panthers blew out arguably their biggest ACC basketball rival and gained sole possession of first place in the ACC. Pitt has enjoyed a magical campaign thus far, and it doesn’t feel like it will conclude any time soon.

The Panthers are in an advantageous position in regard to the ACC and NCAA tournaments. They control their own destiny in the conference and would become the outright regular season champions if they defeat both Notre Dame and Miami this week. Pitt would then earn the No. 1 seed and a double bye in the ACC tournament, giving the team a prime opportunity at winning their first conference tournament championship since 2008.

The Panthers’ projected NCAA tournament seed would rise as well as a result. They are currently penciled in as a No. 10 seed by Joe Lunardi of ESPN and could move up a few spots if they play up to their full potential during the next couple of weeks. 

Pitt also has a roster built for March. The Panthers are experienced, they shoot well from three and possess a strong backcourt. Head coach Jeff Capel has the team playing with energy and spunk too, and it really feels like this program could reach new heights in the near future. 

Pitt leans on its three-point shooting

The Panthers’ offensive identity is built around three-point shooting. Pitt currently attempts 26.3 threes per game, which ranks first in the conference, and makes 9.4 per game, which ties for first in the ACC. That philosophy is a far cry from Pitt teams of the past, but the addition of players like Hinson and graduate student guard Greg Elliott allowed the Panthers to transition into a more modern offensive style. 

Pitt shot nine of 24 from deep against Georgia Tech. Hinson and Cummings both attempted nine from behind the arc, with Hinson making five and Cummings making three. 

The Panthers attempted a whopping 41 threes against Syracuse and made 16 of them. Hinson shot six of 17 from deep while Elliott hit five on 11 tries. 

Pitt has inarguably run into some inconsistencies from three-point range at points this season. Its offense is also dependent on those shots falling, but that’s not a bad bet for a team that has the personnel and success that the Panthers do. It’s a factor that will play a significant role in the outcome of tournament games, and there simply aren’t many teams better equipped than Pitt in that regard. 

Pitt will continue its ACC schedule against Notre Dame on the road on Wednesday. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and coverage will air on ESPNU.