When: Wednesday, 1/27, 7:00pm
Where: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, SC
TV: Fox Sports South, ESPN3 (Subject to Blackout),
The Pittsburgh Panthers come to the Bon Secours Wellness arena on Wednesday to face the 12-7 (5-2) Clemson Tigers. The Panthers finished the non-conference schedule with a sterling 11-1 record, but played a soft schedule with only one team (Purdue) in the KenPom top 131. Their best win of the non-conference came vs. Davidson (KenPom 132). Nevertheless, that's still much more impressive than Clemson's paltry 7-5 non-conference record.
The Tigers have been the more impressive team since ACC play started though. Clemson managed to recover from a 7-6 start to the year by winning five consecutive ACC games including a road win at Syracuse and three straight wins over ranked opponents for the first time in school history. Pittsburgh is always talented and aren't off to a bad start themselves as they've already beaten Syracuse and Notre Dame.
The Panthers will attack Clemson in the post with excellent PF Michael Young. Young is 6'9" and 235lbs. He averages 17ppg, and draws just over 6 fouls per 40 minutes. He'll go right at Jaron Blossomgame, who will be at a height and weight disadvantage. Fortunately for Clemson, Blossomgame has been excellent at avoiding foul trouble this season, committing just 2.3 fouls per 40 minutes. Power forward certainly offers the matchup to watch as each team's star player will face off.
The Tigers start two seniors, two juniors (one with a redshirt), and a sophomore. The Panthers have an even more senior squad with three seniors and two juniors in their starting lineup and two juniors (Chris Jones and Sheldon Jeter) as key reserves. They play with great efficiency and pass like a veteran squad. We recently discussed Clemson's improved passing, which is evident in their far improved assist to field goals made ratio (59.1%). Pitt is 7th in the country in the metric with 67.0% of their field goals coming off assists. Both team's tend to slow opponents' offenses down and play lower tempo games.
Expect a slow down, drag out battle. Pitt will work it inside as they shoot few threes (though they knock down the ones they take). Clemson will need to make a few threes, avoid foul trouble, and thwart Pittsburgh's interior game if they are to cash in on KenPom's predicted win (64% win probability). Win this game and we're officially going to start getting very optimistic around here.