Pitt Falls To NC State, Making An Early Exit In Second ACC Tournament Appearance


Mar 11, 2015; Greensboro, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Anthony Barber (12) looks to pass as Pittsburgh Panthers forward Jamel Artis (1) defends in the second half. The Wolfpack defeated the Panthers 81-70 in the second round at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The common theme for Pitt basketball this season was a lack of scoring from the guards, as well as a defensive deficiency.

These two problems surfaced last night in the second round of the ACC Tournament against NC State, particularly on the defensive side in a 80-71 loss.

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In several games this season, guards have had career-highs in scoring against Pitt, and this happened once again, as Wolfpack guard Anthony “Cat” Barber dropped 34 points on the Panthers.

Barber essentially did whatever he wanted with the ball, and leading scorer Trevor Lacey drained 21 points.  Cat Barber only made 20 three-pointers all season, but last night he was 4 of 5, essentially outscoring Pitt in the first half.

Last season, Pitt relied on upperclassmen such as Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, and these impact players led Pitt to the ACC Semifinals and the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

This year, it has been disappointing, as junior guard James Robinson struggled finding consistency in his shot, junior guard Durand Johnson was suspended for the entire season, senior center Derrick Randall did not contribute much off the bench, and senior guard Cameron Wright failed at taking over a game.

Without leadership, we witnessed an uncharacteristic softer, young Pitt team get knocked around and refuse to fight back.

This team showed potential, beating Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Syracuse twice, but it also showed regression in losses to Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Clemson, and Miami.

Pitt controlled its own destiny with three games remaining on the schedule, as ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Pitt would make the tourney if they had won out.  Instead, Pitt flopped in all three games, and now exited the ACC Tourney after the first game.

NC State can be a pretty good basketball team, especially when Barber, Lacey, and Turner are hitting their shots, but they have also shown inconsistency, being blown out by WVU and Boston College, but beating Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolfpack made the Elite Eight, nor if they lost in the Round of 64.

As for Pitt, they will now await a phone call for the NIT, with the hopes of potentially playing an additional home game.  Yes, this is a disappointment in my eyes, as I thought this team had the talent to at least get to the Round of 32 this season.

Last night, Wright had one of his better games, scoring 19 points on 7 of 11 shooting, but Robinson only scored 2 points.  Again, Sheldon Jeter started, but only took three shot attempts, making a three-pointer.

These three Pitt starters/guards combined for 24 points, whereas Lacey and Barber scored 55.  Pitt managed to put up 71, but allowing 55 to two players spells trouble.

Sophomore forward Jamel Artis finished with 12 points, but he struggled on 3 of 13 made field goals, which was uncharacteristic.  Artis had been the most consistent Pitt player over the past month and a half, but he picked a bad time to struggle from the field.


Sophomore forward Michael Young scored 13 points, making 2 of 3 three-point attempts.  In my eyes, this player has the potential to be a star, but he needs to be moved from the center position.  I would play Artis at the 3, and Young at the 4.

This move is more than just an offensive solution though.  NC State shot 53%, of which has been way too common for ACC opponents against Pitt.  The defense just isn’t there.  Pitt doesn’t look like the defensive Pitt teams of the past.

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  • One reason may be the center position.  Young is a tough player, but there is no inside presence.  Teams freely drive to the basket, without worrying about a shot-blocker.  There isn’t a Dejuan Blair, Steven Adams, Gary McGhee, or Aaron Gray down there.  It is actually somewhat pleasant for the opposition.

    That is a staple of a Jamie Dixon team, and hopefully 7-foot, 340-pound center Rozelle Nix can fill the void next season.

    I firmly believe that the lack of a true center killed Pitt this season, despite the scoring troubles.  With a defensive-oriented center, the easy lay-ups may have gone away, and Pitt may have gotten 4 or 5 more wins.

    As far as this season, players who improved include Artis, Young, and Jones.  Jeter made a significant contribution in his first season here, and he may be the most athletic player on the team.  Players who regressed include Wright, Robinson, Randall, and Newkirk.

    I continue to stay optimistic for next season, as my starting lineup/backups would be as follows:

    Point guard James Robinson/Josh Newkirk/Damon Wilson

    Shooting guard Durand Johnson/Chris Jones/Cameron Johnson

    3 Guard/forward Jamel Artis/Sheldon Jeter

    Small forward Michael Young/Ryan Luther/Tyrone Haughton

    Center Rozelle Nix/(*hoping for a Cheick Diallo commit)/Joseph Uchebo

    The “young” card will not work with this team, as it consists of primarily juniors.  Many other ACC squads, such as Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State, and Virginia Tech, whom all beat Pitt, bring back essentially their entire teams as well.

    Yes, Pitt should improve, but ultimately it is going to depend on the center position for a defensive presence, the ability of point guard James Robinson to score, and the addition of Durand Johnson back to the lineup.

    Regardless, it just does not feel right without Pitt in the NCAA Tournament.

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