ACC Basketball

Tar Heels Tangle With Panthers

Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Jamie Dixon has been the Pittsburgh Panthers head coach since 2003 and in that time, his team has missed the NCAA Tournament just once (2012). However, this season is shaping up to be the second time an invite to the dance won’t be arriving, unless his team can finally start finding some wins of course.

Saturday is the perfect situation for the Panthers. It’s a top-25 opponent, which means a chance for a signature win, and it’s at home. However, while the situation may be perfect, the match up is far from it.

North Carolina is a team that survives by going inside. In fact, they are tied for last with Pittsburgh for three-point attempts. In last week’s win over Boston College, Marcus Paige was the only Tar Heel to attempt a three and he only made one. However, with Isaiah Hicks in the starting lineup with Brice Johnson, the pair scored 41 points, which is bad news for Pittsburgh because no team is worse at defending the paint than the Panthers. In fact, right now they are the worst defensive team in the ACC in Effective FG%, three-point % and keeping people off the free throw line (Ken Pom).

When Carolina has the ball, Jamie Dixon’s squad needs to be aggressive, try to trap and disrupt the passing lanes. Carolina has struggled at times turning the ball over and their guards can be rattled. Once in the half court though, they’re going to need to pack it in and double up the Tar Heel big men and just accept it if they lose because the Tar Heels are hitting deep balls.

When North Carolina lines up to defend Pittsburgh, they have little need to pack it in, because their bigs should be able to control the paint, capable of throwing a pretty impressive block party from time to time. Like North Carolina, the Panthers are a bad three-point shooting team and simply don’t take a lot of threes, taking only 13 per game in conference play, barely hitting 30% of them. However, they have a handful of ball handlers who can all put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. Whoever wins that battle, wins the game.

The Panthers have the home court, the crowd and their backs against the wall. They beat Carolina last year in the ACC Tournament, so they can do it again, but I just can’t see this team matching up with the Tar Heels inside.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: North Carolin, 76-73

 

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