#116 R.P.I. Virginia Tech @ #35 R.P.I. Pittsburgh:
Great peeps, great Pirate and Stiller City of Champions times.
My how the times have changed.
Exit Hugh Green, Tony Dorset, Dan Marino, Johnny Majors; and enter Jamie Dixon? Quick, is that a Pitt player or a coach?
See what I mean?
As Pitt will always be no better than 4th banana behind the Stillers, the Stillers, and a Pens/Pirate tie when their are Stargell stars up in the sky.
That said, Pitt has been very decent in both revenue sports for a while. And they are closer to their Big East roots in style of play and physicality than the rest of the A.c.c. is. Remember that…
Pitt at a glance:
- 3rd in FT percentage (77.4%)
- 9th in assists per game (18.3 apg)
- 22nd in Rebounding Margin (+7.9 rpg)
- 39th in shooting percentage (47.5%)
- 39th in scoring O (8o ppg)
- ton of national rankings in single or double digits, may not be an epic team, though it is a dead solid team all-around!
- NO injures listed (thank God)
Panther Returning Starters=4
- #2, Michael Young counts. So let’s start with him, other than the fact that he does not always start for Pitt. 6’9” and 233 lbs. of kinda lean looking scoring relief at a team leading 17.3 ppg and a likewise team lead in Windex work wiping the glass with 6.3 rpg. Not bad work in relief; if you can get it. So Pitt has a pretty damn good frontcourt all by junior year Michael Young’s ownself. Prolly more at home at the Four; although Young can slide over thanks to the narrower collegiate lane and man the Five as well. Tough, physical, does have more than normal P/F-Center range on his J, (33% from three), 56% overall, and 82% from the charity-stripe connote more than just a brutal guy. Which at least to this previewer? He’s not –that brutal. Nevertheless, that is what the book reads, especially on the offensive-glass; where he thrives with 128 FTA’s this season. And do recall he once shattered the fiberglass on a dunk in high school! To me Michael is almost a stronger 3 trapped in a 4’s body and all of this while being all-A.c.c. Academic Team first-string! A 4 that looks and plays leaner than he is listed mind you as I still do not see these ~235 lbs. when I break tape here. Still yet, this is 1st or 2nd all-A.c.c. teamer and he is some measure of a Pro’ baller; even if his game seems a bit more overseas.
- James Richardson counts, too. As do his 10 ppg and Panther leading 5 dimes. 6’3” 197 lb. senior year Pt.Guard from the famed DeMatha basketball scholastic factory. Best backcourt lock-down perimeter defender for Pitt; said to be a pass first guy who needs to learn to take his own looks; once he works on his shot, as some have questioned his range over the years. Although 39% last year from downtown does not see that questionable to me. Has started every game less one in his Pitt career, so you know he is durable and therefore well seasoned and highly experienced to boot. 45th overall outta high school; however, his trajectory has been hobbled a bit by a history of off-season foot surgeries. Had a massive high school career, won a championship for DeMatha, won a slew of individual awards and honors; and has had a subsequently very decent college career for it, maybe “a few bricks shy” (final pre-Super Bowl winning season book on the early 70’s Stillers; -in Pittsburgher parlance- maybe a few NC2A bricks shy of a massive college load however.
- Second in scoring would be 6’7” 222 lb. Wing Jamel Artis. Jamel is listed by some of my pre-season rags as the alpha-Panther or at least as the true(r) key to this campaign. 15.8 ppg from the third-year B’more inner city native who is said to be something of a bankrupt man’s Larry Bird or point Forward –as he’s second on Pitt in assists (3.8) and is third in rebounding 4.5 rpg. Said to be a high basketball-I.Q. guy, with good vision and handles. Decent enough range (37% on threes), can play the four in a pinch and is just a really versatile all-round jack of all trades flavored baller. Roomed and played ball with Young in high school; they do have a winning history together.
- offensive firepower is the pre-season mytharc nag here. As Pitt is deep enough, though do they notch the scoreboard often enough is the question?
- I will not officially say that this is small A.c.c. team, because it is not. All the more so if they could get the 7’2” 330 lb. monsta Nix kid in shape. It is however not a true Center and true P/F filling out kinda team. Kinda has a wing(y) and/or ‘tweener stretched and possibly overstretched vibe to it overall.
- that said, both statistically and in watching their style of play, Pitt does not do anything real poorly. A very balanced if not an epic hoops club.
Panther Bench: (depth=4 and change, no shortage of depth here, pretty good pine squad for Pitt, lead by Jr. 6’8” 224 lb. 7.8 ppg and 5.4 rpg Sheldon Jones and Stirling Smith. The 6’4” 185 lb. Sr. Smitty in particular is listed as one of the elite A.c.c. newcomers this year by way of transferring his then 15 ppg and 3-point range from Coppin State.)
Illation, conclusion (s) and OPT digits:
The takeaway here is… this is yet another mid-range Atlantic Coast few shots here few shots there kinda toss-up looking, either team can win game. At least on A.c.c. sporting prognosticenti paper.
Why however you ask?
As Pitt is ranked nationally (23rd) at 16 up and 4 down overall and 5-3 in the A.c.c. And yet Pitt has been yo-yo’ing a bit of late and that gives 11 point visiting underdog Virginia Tech a chance.
Because there is something here that just kinda/sorta looks like a good team that is getting exposed for not being officially great | or rather maybe this is a real solid team that is getting exposed for not quite being officially good? Take thy pick as Pitt -and to their credit- did run through their out-of-conference docket like a warm knife through hot butter. Pitt is indeed 12-2 at home for that reason and yet they are sub .5oo since o1.o9 for a reason(s) as well.
Pitt -as said- is solid, they may even have happened upon a scosce of hooping Gestalt Theory; being a hardwood whole that is greater than the sum of their collective 1 through 5 individual parts. However, when your offense drops by 7% overall and your defense softens by 5% once you put down the sugar and come off the O.O.C. cupcake binge?
Something is ‘rong with that. As these Panthers strike me as something of a paper-tiger; no matter how feline their shiny 14-1 start actually was.
Our handy-dandy friend the so-called Forum Guide of Graham Houston fame does aver a 5 point Pitt homesteading win in this one. However, Virginia Tech is 7% more efficient on offense in these two’s last five games; and the Panthers have been tamed by the FT-line (67%) of penta-late. See what I mean? Pitt is prolly a credible few point favorite at home in this one; and yet no better than that. And the Michael Young benching a couple of games ago tells me something is just not right here.
So, although not many -if any- will, I’ma gonna make my second reach pick of the season (first was @N.Dame); and call for a Hokie upset win here; somehow, someway.
On what seems to me to be a sleepy Sunday steel-grey winters night back in my Iron City fueled and Primanti’s stuffed stomping ground of yore… Buzz and company steal this one, with a final margin that will appear wider than the game itself truly was…
(59% confidence interval)
Virginia Tech=75, Pittsburgh=63