With the light of the Deacs’ NCAA Tournament hopes slowly dimming, Wednesday’s game against Pitt is an absolute must win. While the Panthers haven’t been very good this season (15-12 overall, 4-10 in the ACC), they appear to be trending upward. After losing 8 straight in the ACC, Pitt has rallied to win 3 of their last 4, including wins over Syracuse and 17th ranked FSU. Here are Pitt’s players to watch:
Michael Young | Senior Forward | #5
Young is having one of heck of a senior season. He is leading the ACC in scoring averaging 20.2 points per game while picking up 7.2 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He has a dangerous combination of size (6-9, 235lbs.) and skill that allows him to score from the post, the perimeter, and pretty much everywhere in between. Much like John Collins, he can be a force in the post, using his strength to bully weaker defenders and get easy looks inside. As a result of his aggressive play around the basket, he gets to the free throw line almost 7 times per game.
Young is also a great face up player. He has a good midrange game and can put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. This could be problematic for the Deacs as putting Collins on Young could land him on the bench in foul trouble, and Dinos may not be able to keep Young in front of him on the perimeter.
While Young is not a spectacular 3-point shooter, he has no hesitation about shooting the ball from deep. He is shooting 36% (34-95) from beyond the arc this season and averages 3.5 attempts per game. So while the deep ball is probably the weakest aspect of his offense, it would still be inadvisable to leave him open from the outside.
Jamel Artis | Senior Guard | #1
Artis, much like Young, is having a great senior year. He is third in the ACC in scoring with 19.6 points per game, and he adds 3.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game for the Panthers. Artis presents a lot of the same matchup issues that Luke Kennard did; he has the athleticism and skill to drive the ball to the basket around slower defenders, and the height (6-7) to shoot right over shorter guys. He is an extremely explosive offensive player that can put up points in a hurry (dropped 43 on Louisville earlier this season). His biggest weapon is the 3 ball. Artis is shooting 41% (65-158) from beyond the arc this season and can shoot the ball spotted up, coming off of screens, or pulling up off the dribble. His height combined with his super quick release makes his shot pretty tough to contest. Almost half of his shots this season have been from deep.
With his ball handling, quickness, and size, Artis can also be a tough player to stop when he is driving to the basket. Once a defender tightens up on him to defend the 3-point shot, Artis can blow right by them and finish at the rim through contact. The Deacs will need to be ready to play help defense and rotate over to cut off driving lanes when Artis has the ball.
Of course playing help defense will leave other guys open, and Artis is a great passer. If the Deacs can’t keep him from getting into the lane one on one, the Panthers will likely get plenty of open shots on assists from Artis.
Keeping these 2 guys from having big nights would put Wake Forest in great position to pick up the win this Wednesday.