The season continues with just four regular season games remaining. Next up for BC is a road game at Pitt. A lot has gone down since these programs last met in January on the Heights. To get the scoop, we turned to the boys at Cardiac Hill. Our questions and their answers below.
BC Interruption: Help me out a bit as I'm finding it hard to make sense of this year's Pitt team. They lost to the likes of Virginia Tech and Hawaii. Probably should've lost to BC earlier in the year. They struggled to put away teams like Oakland and Bryant. Yet in recent weeks, they had two big resume building victories over Notre Dame and North Carolina. What gives?
Cardiac Hill: I think it's mostly the inconsistencies of a young team. Pitt has had a grand total of one upperclassman, point guard James Robinson, play consistent minutes all season. The only other upperclassman who has secured any kind of regular playing time is Robinson's backcourt mate Cameron Wright—and he's missed a good chunk of the season to injury. The bulk of Pitt's minutes have gone to underclassmen and as a result, the team hasn't been completely consistent.
We've seen them struggle against some weaker teams and then play out of their minds against North Carolina and Notre Dame. All due to the ups and downs of younger players still trying to find their way. This team will be good next year and very good the year after that. But right now, it's a very young roster.
BCI: There's been a lot of basketball played since these two teams met on the Heights. In that one, Josh Newkirk, Michael Young and Sheldon Jeter all finished in double figures. Other than those guys, who should BC fans be wary of on Tuesday night?
CH: The biggest name right now is Jamel Artis. Artis has been the team's focal point on offense and is now the team's leading scorer after a somewhat slow start. He's a very good shooter as a forward and his game has gone to another level the past month or so. Interestingly enough, that was one of the few times Newkirk has had a good game this year and while Jeter has played better lately, Young is really the only one of those three that has been a consistent force.
BCI: Pittsburgh's right on the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble at this point. Gun to head, do the Panthers get in this year? And if they don't, what game or games will Pitt fans point to as the ones that got away and made the difference between the NCAA Tournament and the NIT?
CH: I think they should, but not sure if they will. The thing benefiting Pitt right now is the remainder of the schedule. The Panthers had a brutal stretch recently with UNC, Louisville, and Virginia all within a six-day span. They just beat Syracuse this weekend on the road in what was maybe their most difficult game left and the remaining games are BC, Miami, Wake Forest, and Florida State. All are winnable (particularly since Miami is at home) and if they can manage a sweep, they would have another very winnable ACC Tournament game up next. The general line of thought is that a 5-0 record in those games would get the Panthers in, while 4-1 is questionable. 4-1 would give them a 10-8 conference record and 23-11 record overall going into a second ACC Tournament game. Doing that in the ACC this year should get you in IMO.
If Pitt doesn't get in, a big culprit will be the road loss to Virginia Tech. A lot of people like to point to the Hawaii game but to me, the loss to the Hokies is worse because it came later in the year and Pitt didn't have Wright for the Hawaii game. Hawaii can also get to 20 wins this year while Virginia Tech is a flat out bad team. Another issue for the Panthers is that they lost to another bubble team like North Carolina State (Joe Lunardi currently has them in and Pitt out). If they managed to get in and Pitt was sent to the NIT, it'd be hard not to look at that game as a factor.
BCI: Looking at the conference as a whole, how many ACC teams get into the NCAA Tournament?
CH: Six seems to be the most popular number and that'd be my guess...though I suppose it could stretch to seven depending on what else happened. I don't see any way there's less than six. Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Virginia are the locks and there are good cases for Pitt, Miami, and NC State. At least one of those later three will get in.
BCI: I look at schools like BC and Pitt similarly in the sense that many of their chief rivals exist beyond the ACC. As Pitt settles into life as a member of the conference, which men's basketball opponents do fans get up for the most in conference play? How about in football?
CH: In basketball, I think the fans get up the most for North Carolina and Duke just because of the history of those schools. But in terms of a true rival, it's got to be Syracuse. The hatred isn't there for the Orange as much as for schools like UConn or nearby West Virginia, but Pitt has played Syracuse so much that it's almost a rivalry by default. Louisville has to fit in somewhere, too, to some degree.
In football, I don't think there's a strong rival. it's got to be either Virginia Tech or Miami from the old Big East days, but neither commands the interest of fans as Penn State and West Virginia do. Pitt isn't as much of a rival for Miami, but the fans can't stand them so it works. The Hokies are a natural fit as well mostly because Pitt has had so much success against them.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Who ya got? What's the final score?
CH: It's a game Pitt has to have and despite the first one, which should have been a loss, I think the Panthers take care of business here. It's a must win at home and with a 13-2 record at The Pete with so much at stake, it's really difficult to pick against Pitt here. I'll say Pitt wins 73-65.
For more on the Panthers, be sure to check in with Cardiac Hill.