ACC Tournament Quarter-Final Preview: Duke vs Pittsburgh
In a rematch of a thrilling late January game that saw the Blue Devils take down the Panthers by 8 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, the two teams meet again with Duke trying to maintain momentum (7 wins in 9 games) headed into the NCAA Tourney and Pitt looking for another quad 1 win to bolster their resume for the committee.
The Blue Devils were without perhaps their best player, Jeremy Roach, in the first matchup, and his presence should theoretically swing things even further in the Blue Devils favor but the games aren't played in theory and Roach will need his improved scoring to continue if Duke is going to improve on the performance earlier this season.
Dereck Lively's impact on the Devils defensively, particularly with his ability to protect the rim, has really allowed Duke's defense to flourish down the stretch and be their calling card (27th in the nation per KenPom), in stark contrast from the more up-tempo, run and gun, kind of style they played in Mike Krzyzewski's final few seasons.
Jeff Capel's Panthers on the other hand entered the ACC Tournament after losing three of their final five games to finish the regular season and find themselves searching for quality wins to lock themselves into the NCAA Tournament field.
Pitt has plenty of guys who can score the rock with Blake Hinson and Jamarius Burton both averaging over 15 points a game and two more guys averaging in double figures. The Panthers do however settle for a lot of tough shots and that reliance leaves them vulnerable to cold shooting performances.
The Panthers don't have much size in the frontcourt so a key factor will be 6'11 Sophomore Federiko Federiko and his ability to stay on the floor (out of foul trouble). If he's out there his length should definitely make Duke think twice as they attempt to finish around the rim. If not Duke's paint scoring could prove to be the difference in this one.
Best Bet(s): Under 138.5 | Over 14.5 Points, Jeremy Roach
Roach averaged just over 16 points a game after returning from a foot injury and has been the go-to guy in big time moments for the Devils this season. I would expect him to rise to the occasion today and take this game over for stretches.
As I mentioned earlier Duke has relied on their defense down the stretch and they haven't allowed an opponent to break the 70 point mark since February 6th at Miami. Look for the Devils to try to play smart efficient basketball on the offensive end and control this game with their defense. With that in mind I think we see the winner in the mid 60s in this one.