The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team opens up ACC play on New Year’s Eve as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Irish stumbled their way out of non-conference play with two sluggish wins over Colgate and St. Peter’s. Nevertheless the Irish are still ranked in the top 25 and have a record of 11-2.
- The Irish have a narrow lead in the all-time series as they hold a 31-30 record against the Panthers.
- The Irish and Panthers last met last season at Purcell Pavilion. Pitt came away victorious with a 86-82 win.
- Notre Dame has dropped its last three meetings with Pitt. The last Irish win came in February of 2013, which was also its last win at Petersen Events Center.
- Notre Dame is 14-19 all-time at Pittsburgh.
- Saturday will mark the 62nd meeting between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is Notre Dame’s most frequent opponent of anyone in the ACC.
- Mike Brey is 12-12 all-time versus Pittsburgh.
When: Saturday December 31st, 2016, 2:00pm ET
Where: Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA
How to Watch: WatchND, WatchESPN, or ACC Network. Affiliates carrying the game
Pittsburgh Panthers (11-2)
After a nice run under Jamie Dixon, the Panthers are in the first year of the Kevin Stallings regime. Stallings had a long run of success at Vanderbilt, but after Dixon bolted for TCU the Pitt job was too good for Stallings to pass up.
The Panthers come into the matchup winners of their last five games, which includes a victory over Maryland. Pitt’s only two losses came at the hands of a solid SMU team and then shocking loss to Duquesne.
The Panthers are a very big and long team. Five of the seven guys in their rotation are over 6’6”. Notre Dame is not the biggest team in the world, so dealing will Pitt’s size is something to keep your eye on.
Pittsburgh was picked to finish 12th in the ACC, but many see the Panthers able to earn a NCAA Tournament bid. That’s how strong the ACC should be this season.
Jamel Artis and Michael Young lead the charge for the Panthers. The dynamic forwards both average over 20 points per game. Artis and Young combined for 44 in last season’s contest with the irish.
Opponent’s points per game: The Panthers are capable of filling it up themselves, but they have trouble of stopping their opponents. They surrender 75.6 points per game, which ranks 227th in the nation. The Irish score over 83 points per game.
Opponents free throw %: You’re probably wondering “how can they control this stat at all?” Well when the Panthers allow teams to shoot almost 20 foul shots per game, teams are bound to have a high FT% against them. Teams are shooting 73% from the charity stripe against the Panthers and we all know Notre Dame is the nation’s best free throw shooting team.
Offensive boards: Pitt is not going to get too many second chances. They average only 8.3 offensive rebounds per game, which ranks the 228th in the country. Notre Dame has done a decent job on the defensive boards as they rank 83rd in that department.
Scoring: As mentioned before Pittsburgh can fill it up with the best of them. The Panthers are averaging over 82 points per game, good for 32nd nationally.
Interior scoring: The Panthers do a good job of scoring in the paint. They shoot 54% on two pointers, and rank 66th in points from two-point field goals. The Irish might need more minutes from Martinas Geben on Saturday afternoon.
Three-point defense: Pitt has defended the three very well this season. Opponents are shooting just 30% from beyond the arc against them. Three-point shooting is one of Notre Dame’s strengths, so this could be a very interesting aspect of this matchup.
Panthers to Watch
Jamel Artis - 6’7”, Wing, Senior
Artis is just one of Pittsburgh’s capable scorers. We already told you he’s a 20 point scorer as he averages 20.8 points per game, but he can really do a little bit of everything. Artis is Pitt’s leading assister at 3.5 assists per game and he’s also their third leading rebounder at 5.6 rebounds per contest.
Michael Young - 6’9”, Forward, Senior
Young is Pitt’s leading scorer at 22.8 points per game. Like Artis, Young has a complete game. Aside from being their leading scorer, he’s also the Panthers’ leading rebounder (7.8 RPG) and shooter (51% FG). The Irish will have their hands full with these productive forwards.
Pick to Click
Matt Farrell - 6’1”, Guard, Junior
I’m going back to the well with Farrell this game. I went with him against St. Peter’s, but he really didn’t do much of anything as he only had six 6 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 31 minutes of action. But to be fair, outside of V.J. Beachem no one else did anything of substance in that game either. Farrell tends to show up in big time matchups and almost every game in the ACC this season is going to be one. He’s going to be matched up with some bigger players, but expect Farrell to use his speed and quickness to beat them.
Pittsburgh 77 - Notre Dame 73
Notre Dame has not fared well against the Panthers in recent past and they really struggle at Petersen Events Center. On top of that Notre Dame is stumbling into ACC play with two very unimpressive wins over Colgate and St. Peter’s.
I expect this one to be a relatively high scoring affair, as both teams have really good offenses. I don’t know if Notre Dame will have an answer for Artis or Young. With the home court advantage, I like Pitt to make two or three more plays to help them come away with the W.
If Notre Dame wants any shot of a victory they can’t have any disappearing acts from Beachem or Steve Vasturia like we’ve seen in the past.