The North Carolina State Wolfpack are in Pittsburgh for a matchup with a streaking Pitt basketball team on Monday at 9:00 pm. The Panthers are winners of two straight games, and are looking to finish off the season strong.
North Carolina State comes into the game at 17-12 and 7-9 in the ACC. The Wolfpack cannot afford to lose as they close out the season. They are struggling to earn a tournament bid, and at this point, it is more likely that they earn a high seed for the NIT, the second tier tournament.
North Carolina State currently sits in a tie for eighth place in the ACC with Maryland. However, Maryland loses the tie breaker with NC State as a result of a NC State 65-56 victory over Maryland on January 20. Teams that finish between fifth and eighth place in the ACC earn byes to the second round of the ACC tournament.
The Wolfpack are led by sophomore forward T.J. Warren who averages 23.6 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game. Warren is complemented by junior Ralston Turner who adds 10.3 points per game.
This game is the last home game for the Panthers and seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. Patterson and Zanna were honored prior to Pitt’s February 23 matchup with Florida State. This will work in Pitt’s favor; it has the feeling of senior night, only without the festivities and emotions that accompany with senior night.
In addition to this being the final home game for Pitt’s seniors, this is also the final home basketball for beloved University of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Nordenberg will retire in August 2014. The university has grown immensely under Nordenberg’s watchful eye. From an academic standpoint, the university’s requirements to gain admission have become much more rigorous. From a geographical standpoint, the campus has expanded immensely during Nordenberg’s 17 years.
The Pitt basketball program improved immensely under Nordenberg. From his hiring of Bill Howland to current coach Jamie Dixon, Nordenberg was also instrumental in obtaining money to fund the state-of-the-art basketball arena, the Petersen Events Center, that allowed the Pitt basketball program to blossom.
Nordenberg will watch the game in the Oakland Zoo, Pitt’s acclaimed student section, for his final home game as chancellor.
Also reported to be in attendance is Pitt star football player, Aaron Donald. Donald, Pitt’s first unanimous All-American selection since Larry Fitzgerald, is predicted to go high in the first round of the NFL draft in April.
Pitt freshman forward Michael Young will be taxed with guarding Wolfpack star T.J. Warren, this should prove to be a tough match for Young. That being said, if Young is able to slow down Warren, the Panthers will be in the clear for a win. Most basketball teams have been unable to slow down Warren’s production, however the Wolfpack are 0-3 when Warren is held below 15 points.
Pitt cannot afford to lose this game. If this Pitt basketball team wants to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament they need to finish the regular season strong.
Quite frankly, I do not see any way that the Panthers do not come away with a victory. For Lamar, Talib, Aaron and Nordy, Pitt will win and win big. In their first meeting on January 4, Pitt outplayed the Wolfpack and disposed of them 74-62. I expect much of the same in the second round between these two teams.