Pittsburgh Panthers v. Wisconsin Badgers
Friday, March 18, 5:50 PM
Wisconsin kicks off it’s postseason tournament run this weekend against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. The 7th-seeded Badgers and 10th-seeded Panthers haven’t played each other since 2006. In their last matchup, Wisconsin (ranked #7 in the nation at the time) beat Pittsburgh (#2 in the nation at the time) at the Kohl Center in Madison 89-75. Today, however, these are two very different teams than the ones that faced off ten years ago. Neither team is extremely tall or big, which could make for some interesting, gritty basketball. Both teams are reeling off (somewhat) embarrassing losses in their conference tournaments (with Pitt losing by 17 points to North Carolina, and Wisconsin being upset by Nebraska). These two teams are incredibly similar, and it should make for a great basketball game.
Match-Up to Watch
Michael Young is the Nigel Hayes of Pitt’s team. These are two players that are nearly identical in playing style, athleticism, and build. Both players are strong around the basket and at the three-point line. Both are veteran starters for their teams and possess incredible leadership. They both lead their team in scoring. Hayes averages 16.3 points per game, compared to Young’s 16.0 PPG. If two players were considered twins based on statistics and playing style, it might be Hayes and Young. Because they are so similar, they might challenge each other in ways that neither has faced yet this season. Both players are going to be attempting to prove that they are the better “twin.” This is one match-up viewers should pay attention to, as it could make the difference between winning and losing.
X-Factor for Pitt
Pitt is a team very similar to Wisconsin. They have beaten Duke (by 14 points) and Notre Dame. Yet, they have lost handedly to North Carolina, Miami, Purdue, Louisville, and Virginia. Pitt is a very average team in the ACC. They do not shoot the ball well. The similarities between the Panthers and the Badgers are two-fold. However, Pitt doesn’t seem to have the same spark that Wisconsin has had recently. They’ve gone 5-7 in their last twelve games, compared to Wisconsin’s record of 9-3. Pitt is going to need to find a spark somewhere to help propel them in the tournament.
X-Factor for Wisconsin
Wisconsin is traveling a lot shorter a distance than Pitt for this game. Wisconsin fans are notorious for being great travelers, especially last season in the tournament. Wisconsin fans made the difference in a few games in the 2014 tournament (namely the Oregon game when the fans were the loudest I’d ever heard them which changed the entire momentum of that game). The fans at the Wisconsin/Kentucky match-up in the 2015 Final Four were also difference makers and momentum changers. The Wisconsin fans need to make the trip down to St. Louis to bring some pride to the young Wisconsin team. The Badgers have gotten a great new spark in the second half of the season, and with the aid of the fans, they can really make a move in this tournament.
I can not stress enough how similar these two teams are. The only difference is in their records, and they are separated by only one game. Pitt’s record is 21-11 on the season, and Wisconsin’s is 20-12 on the season. These are two defense minded teams. Wisconsin’s scoring defense is 64.6 PPG and Pitt’s is 67.9 PPG. They keep teams in check. Both teams have been known to go on shooting droughts as well. One concerning stat is that even with their shooting droughts, Pitt still averages 76.0 PPG. So, Wisconsin is going to need to step up their rebounding and defense.
With such similar teams, it’s hard to truly make a prediction. However, with Wisconsin’s fan base and momentum, I think Wisconsin is going to come out on top of this one. It’s going to be close. I think Wisconsin will win the game 71-68. The game may even go in to overtime. Regardless of the outcome, it is going to be one great game, a true March Madness classic.
It’s a debate as old as time: ACC or Big Ten? We’ll found out on Friday.
University of Wisconsin, Class of 2019