HomeSportsPanther-Lair - Staff Pick: Pitt battles Iowa State

Panther-Lair – Staff Pick: Pitt battles Iowa State

The Pitt Panthers have had theatrics throughout the season and it certainly continued on Tuesday night in Dayton. Pitt escaped the first four with a 60–59 victory over Mississippi State, the team’s seventh win by three or fewer points on the season. The win sent the Panthers to Greensboro for today’s first round game in the NCAA Tournament against sixth-seeded Iowa State.

Iowa State entered the game with an overall record of 19–13. The Cyclones started the year with a 13–2 start in away games, but finished 6–11. Iowa State managed to beat Baylor twice this month, but otherwise owns a 2-7 mark since the beginning of February.

Iowa State is coached by TJ Otzelberger, who is in his second year with the program. He directed an NCAA tournament schedule last season, and had previous stops at South Dakota State and UNLV. The Cyclones are led by two talented senior guards: Jarren Holmes and Gabe Kalscheur. Holmes is going to score more in the lane, while Kalscheur is certainly more of a threat on the outside.

Overall, Iowa State is not a very talented offensive team. They were near the bottom of the Big 12 in scoring, three-point field goals and even rebounding. What they excel at is defense, as they only surrender 62.8 points per game, which is tops in the Big 12. Iowa State could present similar challenges that Pitt saw against Mississippi State on Tuesday, but they are probably a better team top to bottom.

Can Pitt continue to advance in the Big Dance? The staff of previews today’s game.

Stephen Gertz (25-9)Federico: Federico’s position is once again a factor. But after seeing that many teams get off to slow starts because of nerves in the atmosphere as opposed to anything else, the Pittsburgh Panthers already have those jitters out of their systems. On the other hand, the Iowa State Cyclones will rely heavily on their large back-of-the-line class to steady the ship. This game could follow a similar script to Tuesday, with the exception that Iowa State is not a terrible shooting team. For me, it comes down to turnover. If Pitt can take care of the ball again, he has a legitimate chance to keep dancing. They also need to make the most of their free throw opportunities – slowly becoming an issue – as the Cyclones’ offensive style of play also leads to fouls. Jamarious Burton needs to be on the floor for 35+ minutes this time. It is important that the Panthers have two players that can help set the pace as ISU prefers to play at a slower pace. Stiles fights and as long as Pitt can push in transition while being smart in the half court, I think they make it to Sunday.
Prediction: Pitt 72, Iowa State 67

Houston Wilson (24-10): When the official bracket came out, I immediately said it was a favorable draw for Pitt to score runs. He has great momentum coming into today’s game with Iowa State after the win on Tuesday night and I expect that to help Pitt get off to a good start today. Another thing I expect to help Pitt is his age. These are the types of moments where you want the older players and we know Pitt has that. If Pitt can bring Federico back today that will boost Pitt even more but if he doesn’t play, I like Pitt’s chances of advancing to the next round.
Prediction: Pitt 72, Iowa State 68

Matt Steinbrink (20-14): It’s quite clear that Iowa State bears little resemblance to Pitt’s final opponent on Tuesday night. The Cyclones are basically the same team, but better at hitting three shots and without a single dominant center. They are one of the most experienced teams in the country and play almost exclusively senior players throughout their rotation. Pitt needs to take advantage of his experience advantage at point guard and shoot well from all three. I expect another game in the 60s that could go either way and will be a mostly half court contest. Iowa State has plenty of big bodies to rotate inside and the Panthers don’t rebound well when Federico is on the floor. If they’re without him again, it might catch up to them. When you look at Mississippi State’s win stats for Pitt, it’s unbelievable that they won the game. They have to be quick and together on the defensive end if they want to keep playing. I think it will be very close and competitive with a lot of changes, but the Cyclones have too much size and experience for a Pitt team that is basically down to four players from their original top 8 this season.
Prediction: Iowa State 68, Pitt 63

Jim Hammett (24-10): I think Pitt got a pretty decent draw here in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This isn’t a knock on Iowa State as a team, but when looking at the individual matchups on the floor, it feels like an 8 vs. 9 game, not a 6 vs. 11. They are similar enough from a talent perspective and stylistically, this is a team Pitt can play with or beat. As we saw last week against Duke, there are some teams and players that could trouble Pitt, and I don’t see that type of standout player for the Cyclones. Iowa State, however, is a tough, physical team that survived and fought through a tough conference schedule this year. They have some good, experienced guards and as a team they will play great defense. They don’t have commanding post presence and they are not a particularly great offensive team. Is it an easy game? no way. This is the NCAA Tournament and the game will be decided in crunch time, just like it was on Tuesday night. I like Pitt’s chances here. Iowa State played in a good conference, but we are talking about a team that is 3-7 in its last ten games. Pitt plays very well in a tight game and has the same X-factor as Blake Hinson. I think the Panthers live to fight at least one more day.
Prediction: Pitt 72, Iowa State 64

Chris Peake (24-10): Another NCAA Tournament game, another tough matchup against a good defensive team. On Tuesday, Pitt got the better of Mississippi State; Today, the Panthers will face Iowa State, the best defensive team in the nation’s best conference and one of the top 10 defenses nationally. It’s not an easy challenge, but I’m betting on Pitt here. This is not the first good defense the Panthers have faced this season. Northwestern, VCU, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Mississippi State – all of these teams had one of the best defenses in the country, and while Pitt didn’t win all of those games, the Panthers did win most of them. Sure, they lost spectacularly to Duke, but the Blue Devils complemented their great defense with really good offense. Iowa State is not as good offensively as Duke; The Cyclones are more along the lines of Mississippi State, and Pitt was able to emerge victorious on Tuesday. If the Panthers limit turnovers, make their three and keep Jamerius Burton on the court, I think they do it again and advance to Sunday.
Prediction: Pitt 65, Iowa State 62



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