ACC Basketball

Pittsburgh Hosts George Washington

Jared Wickerham / Getty Images North America

The Panthers earned a 4-seed in the NIT and get to host the 5-seeded Colonials. At this point, they’re probably lucky to even get this invite. They enter the tournament losers of four straight, including three against teams who failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

George Washington was a hot commodity back in late January, sitting at 16-4 overall, 6-1 in the Atlantic 10. Yet, once the opponents got tougher, the loses started to pile up as they dropped seven of nine games, before winning their last two over George Mason and Massachusetts. In the conference tournament, they made it to the quarterfinals, but fell to Rhode Island.

These two programs have a bit of a history, facing off 26 times because both are former members of the Eastern 8 Conference between the 1978-82 and haven’t faced off since 1982. Overall, Pitt leads the series 17-9.

Pittsburgh did one thing right this season and that’s win at home, going 14-2. Offensively, they’re a efficient team (23rd), by keeping the turnovers down (9th in turnover %) and working on the offensive glass (64th). The problem is, they rely too much on jumpers, aren’t particular good at the long ball and are just 179th in Effective FG%.

The scoring comes primarily from two sources, Jamel Artis who averaged 13.8 PPG and is the team’s best three-point shooter (39%). Center Michael Young averages 13.5 PPG, leads the team in rebounds (7.3 RPG), but has had a tendency to struggle against larger front lines.

The issue for the Panthers this season has been on the defensive side. They can’t stop shots from falling, they don’t force turnovers, they can’t rebound and they’re pretty terrible at keeping opponents off the free throw line.

George Washington is an experienced, balanced team. They start four upperclassmen and four different players average double figures in scoring, led by Patricio Garino (12.4 points per game). Junior Joe McDonald runs the point, but this a team that shares the ball, as four players average at least 1.5 assists per game, including center Kevin Larsen, who dishes out 2.3 assists per game.

Overall, they’re 103rd in Offensive Adjusted Efficiency, but they do a lot of damage on the glass (28th in offensive rebounds). Five players pull down over three boards per contest, led by Larsen, who grabs 7.4 RPG.

Yet, it’s defense that makes the Colonials a dangerous team. They don’t do one particular thing great, but they are smart, they communicate and they make teams take tough shots. They’re led by Patricio Garino, who leads the team in both blocks and steals. They’re 74th in Defensive Adj. Efficiency, 41st in Effective FG%. While they don’t force a ton of turnovers, they keep opponents off the FT line and are decent on the defensive boards.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: George Washington, 64-60

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