The No. 25 Pittsburgh Panthers survived a less-than-inspired performance against Virginia Tech last week to set up a huge home game on Wednesday versus No. 1 Syracuse. This is a Panthers program that has been one of the most consistent in college basketball over the past 13 seasons, having won 338 total games and reached the NCAA tournament 11 times over that span.
Jaime Dixon’s squad is all about its culture. Pitt is a physical defensive team that plays in gaps, contests shots and rebounds. Offensively, the Panthers have picked up the pace this season, though they are still a methodical bunch that has great shot discipline. Moreover, they are an excellent passing team that rarely turns the ball over.
Can Pittsburgh make a deep run in the NCAA tournament or will it leave the field early? The following makes a case for both scenarios, along with my thoughts on how they'll actually fare.
Why Pittsburgh could go far
The Panthers rarely beat themselves. They are one of the best passing teams in the country, as evidenced by their 63.8 assist-to-field-goal-made percentage (the sixth-best in the nation). Pittsburgh also has a 1.57 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is the seventh-best rate in college basketball. This is a byproduct of playing with skilled, mature, high-IQ and low- risk players who understand the system in place.