In reaching the finals of the CBI, the Panthers have hardly redeemed their lost season. Still, for a team that has floundered so much through a large chunk of the year, winning three games in a row is at least a small accomplishment.
The Panthers could have quite easily folded up their tent when they were passed up by even the NIT, but in the CBI, they’ve played motivated and have earned the right to play in the final. There, they’ll face the Washington State Cougars out of the Pac-12.
Like Pitt, the Cougars weren’t a great team during the regular season. They lost their few non-conference games of any great consequence and playing in a down Pac-12 this season, only managed a 7-11 record. But Washington State has been renewed since playing in the CBI and have dominated each of their opponents.
In their three games, they’ve won by an average margin of 17 points. Just as impressive is that Washington State managed to win two of those games on the road. Pitt has home court advantage in this series, hosting two of the quirky ‘best of three’, but the Cougars have shown they can win on the road as they’ve also come out on top in two of their three non-conference away games.
For Pitt to win the series, things will go much smoother if they can contain Brock Motum, the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 18 points a game. Motum also pulls in a team-high 6.5 rebounds a game. Another scary thing about the 6-foot-10 forward is that he’s capable of stepping out and hitting three-pointers. Motum’s hit 40% of the 73 he’s taken this season, so Pitt will need to defend him out around the arc.
Another thing the Panthers need is continued production from their bench. Pitt’s offense struggled mightily this season without scoring from their reserves during the season. But in the CBI tournament, they’ve scored just under 30 points a game. If Pitt gets that many points from the bench, they’ll be difficult to beat.
For more on the series and Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation blog Cardiac Hill.