Previewing Pittsburgh

No. 1 seed North Carolina opens ACC Tournament play against No. 8 seed Pittsburgh on Thursday at the Verizon Center. Tip-off is set for noon and will be televised by ESPN and the ACC Network.

North Carolina (25-6, 14-4 ACC) vs. Pittsburgh (21-10, 9-9 ACC)
Washington, D.C. – Verizon Center
Thursday, 12 p.m.
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Doris Burke, Allison Williams)
ACC Network (Tim Brant, Mike Gminski, Debbie Antonelli)

Quotables

“He's been playing more and more because of his defense and rebounding. That's what's been good for us. He's given us great play. You hope freshmen get better. It's up to them. But his improvement has been dramatic. He's made us better. When we didn't have him, we weren't as good in our last game… But, yeah, a lot of big plays from him.” – Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon on Cameron Johnson’s career game against Syracuse on Wednesday

“We've lost to quality teams. Our strength of schedule is one of the best in the country overall, which is what you look at. It's No. 26. Obviously, it's changed since then. We played one of the toughest schedules in the country overall. It's clearly shown that by the numbers, if you go by facts, and not opinions. So we've done it. We've lost to good teams. We're playing better at the end. I don't know that our record shows it as much as it should, but we're certainly a better team.” – Dixon on his team’s bubble status for the NCAA Tournament

PREGAME NOTES

Since the Last Meeting: Pittsburgh enters Thursday’s contest with a 21-10 (9-9 ACC) record. The Panthers have won four of their seven games since losing in Chapel Hill on Valentine’s Day. Jamie Dixon’s squad notched solid wins during that stretch, including a 76-62 win over No. 19 Duke, but tripped up on the road over its final games with losses at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Pitt topped Syracuse, 72-71, in the second round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday.

Johnson Shines: Freshman wing Cameron Johnson scored a career-high 24 points in Pitt’s opening game of the ACC Tournament, tallying 12 points in both halves and connecting on eight of his 16 field goal attempts. He also grabbed a team-high six rebounds. The 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman entered the game averaging 4.3 points per contest on 40.6 percent shooting.

Young Playing Strong Away from Home: Junior forward Michael Young has been Pitt’s best and most consistent player this season, but he’s been even better out of the Petersen Events Center. In 12 road and neutral site games, Young is averaging 17.3 points on 55 percent shooting and 7.3 rebounds per contest, which is better production than at home. He’ scored 20 points or more in five of those games.

Offensive Fizzle: Pitt jumped out to a 14-1 record behind quality offensive play, but the reality of conference play dampened that once bright light. Despite ranking 35th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (112.7), according to kenpom.com, the Panthers ranked 13th in ACC play in field goal percentage (42.9) and 12th in 3-point field goal percentage (32.5).

Since the Last Meeting: Pittsburgh enters Thursday’s contest with a 21-10 (9-9 ACC) record. The Panthers have won four of their seven games since losing in Chapel Hill on Valentine’s Day. Jamie Dixon’s squad notched solid wins during that stretch, including a 76-62 win over No. 19 Duke, but tripped up on the road over its final games with losses at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Pitt topped Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels shot 59 percent in running past the Panthers, 85-64, at the Smith Center on Feb. 14, 2016. Brice Johnson led UNC with 19 points and Marcus Paige added 15 points. The Tar Heels used a 13-0 run in the second half to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, while scoring 16 fast-break points and 24 points off turnovers.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 9-3.

Projected Starters:
0 James Robinson (6-3, 198, Sr.) – 10.4 ppg, 5.1 apg
3 Jamel Artis (6-7, 215, Jr.) - 14.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg
2 Michael Young (6-9, 235, Jr.) - 16.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg
12 Chris Jones (6-6, 213, Jr.) – 6.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg
21 Sheldon Jeter (6-8, 225, Jr.) - 8.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg

Top Reserves:
23 Cameron Johnson (6-7, 200, Fr.) – 4.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg
15 Sterling Smith (6-4, 190, Gr.) - 4.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
3 Damon Wilson (6-5, 200, Fr.) – 11.1 ppg, 1.5 apg

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