PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (20-5)
at NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS (16-7)
Dean E. Smith Center - Chapel Hill, NC
Tip-off: Saturday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: North Carolina -3.5, Total: 136.5
Coming off a last-second loss to No. 1 and undefeated Syracuse, No. 25 Pittsburgh will look to get back in the win column with its first ACC matchup against powerhouse North Carolina.
The Panthers led late against the Orange until a last-second 30-footer sent them to their third loss in their past five games and their fifth consecutive ATS defeat. They are now 8-4 SU (4-7-1 ATS) in ACC play, though all of their SU defeats have come to quality opponents in Syracuse (twice), Duke and Virginia. The Panthers are 7-13-2 ATS overall but 2-2-1 ATS on the road. The Tar Heels enter this one well-rested as their Wednesday contest against the Blue Devils was postponed due to snow. Before that they were playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning five straight SU and ATS, snapping a skid in which they had lost eight of nine ATS. North Carolina (5-5 ATS in ACC) is 12-11 ATS overall this season and 7-7 ATS in Chapel Hill. These two teams havenít met since 1996, when the Tar Heels won 82-61 as 17-point favorites.
Can Pittsburgh bounce back from its heart-breaking defeat on Wednesday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 58% ATS (202-144-11) mark, including a hefty 61% ATS (170-110-6) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is at 65% ATS (45-24-2) in Best Bets for the season and 69% ATS (38-17-1) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is 61% ATS (43-28-1) for the season and 67% ATS (26-13) since Dec. 18, while StatFox Scott is a strong 57% ATS (39-30-2) for the season and 58% ATS (29-21-2) since Dec. 2. StatFox Zach is a solid 55% ATS (37-30-4) on Best Bets this season, including 57% ATS (31-23-3) since Nov. 22, while StatFox Gary is 54% ATS (38-32-2) for the season, and 58% ATS (32-23) since Nov. 29.
Playing a slow brand of basketball, the Panthers average just 72.6 PPG (149th in Div. I) on 46.4% shooting (73rd in Div. I) with 16.0 APG (20th in Div. I). More impressively, they give up only 60.0 PPG (13th in Div. I) on 40.1% shooting, while outrebounding their opponents by +6.7 RPG. They outrebounded Syracuse 35-24, led by PF Talib Zanna (12.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG), who grabbed 14 rebounds to go along with his 16 points. The offense is led by SG Lamar Patterson (17.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.4 APG), but he has struggled mightily in the past five games, shooting a paltry 28.4% from the field. Heís joined in the backcourt by the teamís third and final double-digit scorer, SG Cameron Wright (10.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.8 APG) and PG James Robinson (8.2 PPG, 4.0 APG), who helps Patterson run the offense with a phenomenal 4.3 Ast/TO ratio this season.
Like Pittsburgh, North Carolina isnít very scary on the offensive end, averaging 75.8 PPG (69th in Div. I) on 45.6% shooting (110th in Div. I). The Heels make a terrible 31.8% of their threes and 62.4% of their free throws (7th worst in Div. I). But on the defensive end, Carolina holds opponents to 39.5% FG and dominates the glass with 41.1 RPG (8th in Div. I). PF James Michael McAdoo (15.0 RPG, 6.8 RPG) is their primary post player and is an effective scorer, but struggles at the line, making just 53.4% of his 8.3 FT attempts per game. He has plenty of help on the glass with Brice Johnson (10.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG), J.P. Tokoto (9.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Kennedy Meeks (7.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) all adding at least five boards per contest. G Marcus Paige (17.0 PPG, 4.6 APG) is their top scorer and passer and despite being a natural point guard, he has played off the ball this season to help give the team more perimeter scoring. He is the teamís only big long-range shooting threat too, making 2.2 threes per game on a decent 37% clip. SG Leslie McDonald (10.9 PPG) rounds out the teamís double-digit scorers, though he is hitting just 37.6% FG and 30.9% threes this season, which he started late due to NCAA violation concerns.