Pitt basketball: Panthers hope to get back on track against Miami

Pitt basketball heads into Wednesday’s match-up with the Miami Hurricanes looking to bounce back from consecutive losses to Duke and Virginia.  For the first time this season, the Panthers have lost two games in a row.  Both losses came against now-ranked teams in Duke (11) and Virginia (20).

Pitt finds themselves with a great opportunity to boost their confidence against a mediocre Hurricanes team.  At 11-10 and 13th place in the ACC, Miami is not enjoying the same success that they enjoyed last year.  Pitt is in need of a bounce-back game, and will look to do just that against a bottom feeder in the ACC.

Pitt struggled mightily in their last game against Virginia.  The Panthers were only able to muster  45 points, while shooting 31.9 percent from the field.  It was Pitt’s worst shooting performance since only shooting 31.4 percent in a loss to Cincinnati on December 17.

The good news for the 18-4 Panthers is that all of their losses came against teams who are currently ranked in the top-20.  Somehow Pitt was able to remain ranked despite losing both of its games last week.

Pitt is one week away from their next huge challenge, first ranked and undefeated Syracuse.

Before that battle, Pitt faces off against aforementioned Miami and then 8-13 Virginia Tech.  Virginia Tech currently sits in last place in the ACC.  Pitt must win both of these games in order to prepare themselves for a highly talented Syracuse team.

In order for Pitt to succeed, star senior Lamar Patterson needs to regain his scoring touch.  Patterson is averaging 17.4 points per game and has been the Panthers’ most consistent player.  However, in the last two games (both losses) Patterson has struggled, scoring just 14 and ten respectively.

I predict that in today’s game against Miami, Lamar Patterson will have a big game, and will regain his prior form.  Patterson will guide Pitt to a much-needed victory that will help get Pitt back to its winning ways.

Riding the momentum of the Miami win, Pitt will head into Blacksburg and thrash Virginia Tech earning another confidence booster.  The win against the Hokies will be the Panthers 20th of the season, giving Pitt its 13th consecutive 20-win season.  Head coach Jamie Dixon has never failed to win less than 20 games in a season.

Three keys to a Pitt win over Miami:

1.       Lamar Patterson needs to get his confidence back, and being at the top of his game will surely help. Pitt needs to get Patterson involved early to increase his chances.  This Pitt team will go as far as he is willing to take them.

2.       Michael Young, Jamel Artis and Josh Newkirk, Pitt’s trio of freshmen, have all proven their worth at certain points thus far in the season.  Pitt needs to take advantage of a weak Miami team and allow their freshmen to get involved and which will boost their confidence..  These freshmen will play a huge role for the Panthers down the stretch.

3.       During the last two games against Duke and Virginia, the Panthers have not been themselves for most of both games.  They need to get back to having fun and playing the way that they did in the beginning of the season.