College Basketball Pick
Pittsburgh isn’t behind Duke by much in the record department, but no one has given the Panthers much thought this season. Yet here they are with a winning ACC record and a likely 20-win team. Duke has had its issues, but a lot of those were forgotten during its recent five-Game winning streak, which includedwins over Louisville, Virginia and North Carolina.
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For the Blue Devils to continue that trend, they’ll need to upend Pittsburgh on the road. The Panthers haven’t gotten much respect mainly because their level of wins aren’t that great. They swept Syracuse and won at Notre Dame and that’s about the only thing keeping them afloat and giving them a shot at the NCAA Tournament. They don’t have a bad loss either, which helps, but a win over Duke would be huge for their season.
Duke has had the injury bug for most of the season with Amile Jefferson being out for the majority of ACC play and then Matt Jones went down a week ago. The good news is that Jones is back and the Blue Devils can play with more than six guys, which they had to do at Louisville last weekend. That shouldn’t be too big a factor in this Game as Pitt doesn’t like to run all that much.
Pittsburgh’s home cOurt advantage hasn’t been great this season with a loss to NC State highlighting that, but this will be their home finale, which could make things a little trickier for Duke.
The Panthers have a veteran team led by three upperclassmen that all play nearly 30 minutes per Game. Only one other player averaged more than 20 minutes on the team and that’s Sterling Smith at 20.3. Michael Young is the best and most consistent of the bunch, averaging 16.3 points and 7.0 boards. He may get the task of stopping Brandon Ingram on the other end, but Pitt has a wide array of athletic lengthy guys, so it won’t be Young’s job alone.
Pittsburgh moves the ball around well on the offensive end, but they don’t have a great presence in the paint, which is something Duke lacks.
The Blue Devils are a two-man team offensively for the most part with Ingram and Grayson Allen. Ingram usually presents a matchup problem due to his size, ability to shoot from deep and his work in the paint. When he struggles, Duke usually does. Ingram had just eight points and 10 turnovers in the loss at Louisville last weekend.
Pitt has a decent defense, but stopping Allen may not be an option, as he’s averaging 21 points per Game. Allen usually has his way driving to the rim, but also shoots 43% from deep. LUke Kennard is a guy that can get hot at any moment, and Marshall Plumlee could play a factor in this Game against a small Pitt team.
Pittsburgh senior James Robinson will have the biggest role in this Game, facilitating everything for the Panthers and also holding down Duke’s guards. since failing to Scoreagainst Virginia a couple weeks ago, Robinson’s play has improved and he almost reached a triple-double in a two-OT win over Wake Forest last week. And along with Young, Jamel Artis is a tough guard. He dropped 21 points and 11 boards at Syracuse last Saturday.
This is Pittsburgh’s home finale, but the fact remains that this team struggles against the better ones in the conference. The Panthers won at Notre Dame in early January and haven’t beaten anyone in the upper half of the ACC since. Duke is playing well at the moment and the combo of Allen and Ingram may be too much for Pittsburgh’s trio.
Duke 83 Pitt 77