NC State opens ACC league play by hosting the Pitt Panthers’ first ever conference game today at noon. The game will be televised on local ACC stations and ESPN3 with Mike Hogewood and Cory Alexander calling the game. (I will NEVER complain about Mike Hogewood again after the Fran Fraschilla and Jimmy Dykes debacle of last Saturday night).
NC State holds a 9-1 historical advantage in the series which began in 1948. The last meeting of the schools was during the old ACC/Big East Challenge in 1991 when NC State squeaked out a 78-77 win on a neutral court Hartford, CT. Die-hard Wolfpackers will remember that Pitt was the Wolfpack’s opponent in The most notable meeting between the two schools was in the NCAA Tournament on March 16, 1974, a 100-72 NC State win. Pitt plays at NC State for the first time in 40 years.
Pittsburgh improved to 12-1 on the year after beating the Albany Great Danes 58-46 on Tuesday. The Panthers shot 44.4% from the field, but only 10% from behind the arc and 56.3% from the free throw line. Lamar Patterson scored a team-high 14 points to become the 42nd player in school history to reach 1,000 career points. Talib Zanna chipped in 10 points and 9 rebounds for Pittsburgh. On the year, Patterson averages a team-high 16.8 points per game and 4.5 assists per contest. Zanna averages 11.8 points per game and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game. The Panthers averages 76.9 points per contest and are shooting 48% from the field as a team this season. Pittsburgh is a decent rebounding team and they distribute the ball well of offense. This will be the Panthers first true road game of the season.
The NC State Wolfpack improved to 10-3 on the year after beating UNC Greensboro 68-64 on Monday. The Wolfpack shot 40.7% from the field and only 16.7% from three-point range. NC State shot a poor 60.7% from the charity stripe. T.J. Warren scored 24 points and pulled down a team-high 9 rebounds. Anthony Barber added 17 points and dished out a team-high 6 assists and also had 2 steals. On the year, Warren averages a team-high 23.9 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. Barber is averaging 12.2 points per game and a team-high 4.5 assists per game. The Wolfpack average 75.3 points per game and are shooting 48.3% from the field as a team this season. NC State is not a great rebounding team and they do not hand out a ton of assists on the offensive end of the floor. The Wolfpack have lost two games at home this season to NCCU and Missouri.
Both teams are coming off wins despite not playing well, specifically not shooting the ball efficiently. This will be Pittsburgh’s first true road game while NC State has dropped two games at home early on in the season. Pittsburgh is the better team and on a neutral court I think they would win by double-digits. However, the Panthers may struggle in their first road game in ACC competition, so I’m going to back the Wolfpack on Saturday.
Pitt has not played a road game this season.
Rushing the Court has put together a statistical preview of all of the ACC’s Week One games that can be seen here.
Pittsburgh Offensive Efficiency – 114.1 (#24 in the NCAA)
N.C. State Defensive Efficiency – 100.4 (#110)
N.C. State Offensive Efficiency – 109.5 (#66)
Pittsburgh Defensive Efficiency – 92.5 (#11)
What to Watch For: In its first ACC conference game ever, Pitt looks to have a strong edge on the offensive end of the court. In particular, look for the Panthers to try to exploit the Wolfpack on the boards. Pitt comes in 11th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, while N.C. State is 237th in defensive rebounding percentage. Another area to watch is the mismatch in free throw attempts. N.C. State ranks near the bottom of the NCAA in free throw attempts, while Pitt rarely fouls. In fact, the Panthers actually had a game earlier this year against Cal Poly in which Pitt did not commit a single first half foul.
This is going to be the toughest game to date for the Wolfpack, which will be tasked with stalling a group that is pretty sound in most areas. Jamie Dixon is one of those coaches who seems to churn out NCAA tourney teams like it’s nothin’, even if he isn’t making big headlines on the recruiting trail. The Panthers have been the NCAAs in nine of the last 10 years, and they’ll return in 2014, barring some sort of bizarre collapse in conference play.
In five of the last six years, the Panthers have finished among the nation’s top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. What they do offensively might not always be the prettiest thing–they’re going to limit the pace–but it sure as heck works. A team that takes care of the ball and rebounds well is a terrifying matchup for NC State, which doesn’t force opponents into an exceptionally high number of mistakes and hasn’t rebounded well defensively for about as long as I can remember.
If there is good news, I suppose it’s that Pitt lacks perimeter shooting options. The Panthers are shooting just 33 percent from deep, and like State, they shy away from three-point attempts in general. The key for State might be forcing Pitt into more long jumpers than they’d prefer. That and doing a decent job on the defensive glass, of course. But we may not be able to do the former without zone, which makes the latter task even more difficult.