Pittsburgh starts three talented guards. They are led by Lamar Patterson, who is the biggest of the bunch. He plays a point-forward type of roll. He fills up the stat sheet as Pittsburgh's leading scorer, three point shooter and passer, and is second on the team in rebounds and steals. Patterson can do everything on the court, can score from inside and out, and runs the Panthers' offense efficiently.
James Robinson and Cameron Wright round out the starting backcourt. Wright is a slashing guard who can do damage when he penetrates. He can score inside the arc and is solid finding his teammates as well. Wright is not a big threat from the outside, but is a skilled defender who averages over two steals per game.
Robinson is another physical guard who fits in well within the Panthers' system. He is a solid offensive player who can hit from the outside as well as make plays off the bounce. The 6-foot-3 sophomore is not a focal point of the Pitt attack, but contributes well. His best offensive asset is his strong court vision to compliment his passing ability.
Freshman Josh Newkirk is the primary threat off the bench. He plays about 15 minutes per game, and does a bit of everything on the floor. He rebounds well for a guard, can pass, hit the outside shot, or make plays at the rim. Newkirk is still developing as a defender, but has solid offensive skills.
Talib Zanna starts for Pittsburgh in the middle. A 6-foot-9 senior, Zanna has improved year after with the Panthers. This season, he is the team's leading rebounder at over eight per game to go along with 13 points. He is a strong presence inside, but is only an average shot blocker.
Zanna is a strong low-post scoring threat and skilled rebounder. He plays physical basketball on the inside.
Michael Young starts at power forward for the Panthers. The 6-foot-8 freshman is a versatile forward who can score and is a solid rebounder as well. He isn't a great defender, but is solid on that end of the floor. He does most of his scoring damage inside, but is not overly efficient.
Jamel Artis and Derrick Randall come off the bench for the Panthers up front. Artis is a 6-foot-7 freshman who plays about 15 minutes per game and is a hybrid forward that can play either spot. He plays physical defense, but does not accumulate a lot of steals or blocks. In fact, he has yet to record a steal on the season. He hits the occasional shot from beyond the arc, but primarily scores inside. Artis is a solid on the boards as well.
Derrick Randall is more of a pure, classic power forward who plays physical basketball in the low-post. He is a poor free throw shooter, solid defender and solid rebounder. He plays about 11 minutes per game.
The Panthers are missing wing Durand Johnson, who was the best threat off the bench. He could score from anywhere on the floor, was a strong defender and great free throw shooter. Johnson was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered against Wake Forest on January 11th. Artis and Newkirk will see increased minutes, and freshman Chris Jones could see some action as well.
Pittsburgh plays one of the most physical brands of man-to-man defense in the country. The guards put a lot of pressure on opposing backcourts, and the frontcourts plays physical on the blocks. The Panthers trap well and are strong on the defensive glass.
Pittsburgh shoots the ball really well at nearly 49% on the season, good for 18th in the country. They are also one of the best passing teams in the country (9th) at 17.2 assists per game. Pitt only turns it over 10 times per game. Despite their strong physical defense, they only average seven steals and three blocks per contest.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are playing the best basketball in the ACC. The Panthers know the zone well, and will not be intimidated by the Carrier Dome environment. On paper, Syracuse is still more talented. But Pittsburgh has been a bit of a kryptonite for the Orange in recent years. This should be a fun matchup that could go either way.