2016 NCAA tournament team previews: Pittsburgh Panthers
As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 21-11, 9-9 ACC
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 112.7 (33rd)/99.8 (86th)
Seed: No. 10 in East Regional
Impact player: Michael Young, junior, forward. 16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 53.9 FG%
The Case For: After having to settle for the NIT a year ago, Pittsburgh is back in familiar territory, having reached the NCAA tournament for the 13th time in the past 15 seasons. Coach Jamie Dixon has a deep squad in which 10 players average at least 12 minutes per game but only three average more than 19: veterans Young, fellow junior forward Jamel Artis (14.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and senior point guard James Robinson (10.3 ppg, 5.1 assists). The Panthers are one of the nation's best free-throw shooting teams at 75.8% and have a +8 rebounding margin for the season, two factors that could help them hold a lead—if they can get one.
The Case Against: After jumping out to a 14-1 start in which its only loss came to then-11th-ranked Purdue, Pitt has gone just 7-10. A convincing, 14-point home win over Duke on Feb. 28 looks like an outlier for a team that had only two other wins against NCAA tournament teams after that hot start, both of which came against Syracuse, which many felt didn't deserve a bid. Overall, the Panthers' non-conference strength of schedule ranked well below 300, and the Boilermakers were the only Power 5 conference team Pitt faced before starting ACC play. Outside of the three players mentioned above, the Panthers don't have a go-to scorer, and they shoot just under 35% from three-point range but attempt almost 18 threes per game, so a team's best strategy might be to let Pitt shoot itself out of the dance.
SI Prediction: Beat No. 7 Wisconsin in first round, lose to No. 2 Xavier in second round.