The Pittsburgh Panthers are coming off the most heartbreaking of losses after Tyler Ennis banged in a game-winning three-pointer for the still unbeaten Syracuse Orange on Wednesday. The North Carolina Tar Heels were supposed to play the Duke Blue Devils, but Mother Nature had other ideas.
These two circumstances make the Pittsburgh at North Carolina game at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday even more interesting and important. Pittsburgh has to show it can shake off another tough loss to a rival and come out ready for a completely different looking offense. North Carolina was definitely amped up for the Duke game and needs to show a postponement did not disrupt preparation for Pittsburgh.
These kinds of occurrences make it clear Pittsburgh and North Carolina both need fast starts if they want to come away with an always important ACC victory. North Carolina has to control pace against Pittsburgh. Coach Roy Williams‘ Tar Heels do not want to get into a grind-out game. Marcus Paige and Nate Britt should run off of rebounds to get numbers on breaks for layups and open jumpers. Pittsburgh needs to slow the game to an almost stop. Despite having a respectable offense, coach Jamie Dixon knows making North Carolina uncomfortable on offense gives Pittsburgh its best chance to win.
This means Talib Zanna, who played extremely well against Syracuse, must be an efficient player in the post. Zanna does not need to put up gigantic scoring numbers, but when he is called on he has to contribute. His presence will allow Lamar Patterson to get free more often for outside shots and floaters.
North Carolina’s front line also must hold Pitt to one-and-done offensive possessions. Pitt has struggled on the glass more often than not recently, and Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and James Michael McAdoo need to control the boards. These three also have to provide solid offense. McAdoo is playing well and will get his. Meeks and Johnson both need to contribute.
This game is not a make-or-break situation for either team, but it will be interesting to see how both teams play after an odd beginning to their week.
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