The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will look to bounce back from Wednesday's embarrassing loss to Virginia when they host the Pittsburgh Panthers today at 6:30 p.m. Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon has his team peaking at the right time. Death. Taxes. Jamie Dixon. Since losing three straight contests, Pitt has won six of its last eight games, including home victories over Notre Dame and North Carolina. They are currently part of ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi's "First Four Out." Will they leave Winston-Salem that way?
Pittsburgh has the 15th best offensive efficiency in the country, but it's difficult to determine exactly how that's possible. Pittsburgh has an eFG% (the top indicator of offensive success) of 49.4%, which is slightly above the national average. They have an excellent turnover rate, and are solid on the offensive glass, but have a below average free throw rate.
Pitt is led by Jamel Artis and Michael Young. Artis averages 13.5 points per game, and considering Pitt's snail-like pace (327th in tempo), that's fairly impressive. He also averages nearly 6 rebounds per game and shoots 40% from beyond the arc. Artis is a matchup problem at 6'7", and I'm not sure who we use to defend him. Young also averages 13 points per contest, but hauls in 7.3 rebounds, and is nationally ranked in both offensive and defensive rebounding %. He shoots over 53% from inside the arc, does a solid job of getting to the foul line, and makes 70% of his free throws. Devin Thomas is going to have a difficult job trying to stay out of foul trouble.
The Panthers are surprisingly pretty mediocre on the defensive end. They have a defensive efficiency of 104.0, which is 205th nationally. They have poor eFG% defense, do not force turnovers, and allow offensive rebounds. This will be a welcomed sight for Danny Manning, as he saw his team score just 34 points against Virginia.
Pitt lacks ideal size in the paint, which should be a good thing for Devin Thomas. I expect him to have a big day, and Pitt's lack of size and length should allow Codi Miller-McIntyre to penetrate more this evening. CMM going against Pitt point guard James Robinson should be an excellent one to watch.
For Wake to be successful in this game, the Deacs are going to need to grab offensive rebounds and limit turnovers. Pitt does not force them, so Wake must not make unforced errors. Pitt is unimpressive at eFG% defense, but Wake is even worse offensively. Wake typically gets open looks against good defenses, they just struggle to convert. Today I anticipate them getting looks that will be much harder to miss.
I'm going with Wake to win 65-63. What about you all?