Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Three Things You Need to Know Before Miami Hosts Pittsburgh

Mar 4, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Miami (Fl) Hurricanes guard Davon Reed (5) handles the ball against pressure from Pittsburgh Panthers guard James Robinson (0) during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. Miami won 67-63. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Miami (Fl) Hurricanes guard Davon Reed (5) handles the ball against pressure from Pittsburgh Panthers guard James Robinson (0) during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. Miami won 67-63. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Playing in the ACC is hard enough as it is, but when you play two games in three days, that task becomes exponentially more difficult. On Tuesday night when the Miami Hurricanes host the Pittsburgh Panthers, they’ll be facing that very unfortunate situation.

Coming off of a 75-68 win over Georgia Tech on Super Bowl Sunday, Coach Jim Larranaga and his Canes are surely happy to be back in the safe confines of the BankUnited Center. Miami has made the BUC a fortress this season going 11-1 and claiming some of the season’s most impressive wins there.

When Pitt arrives Tuesday night, the Canes will have yet another opportunity to add a Top 100 win to their already impressive resume that includes 11 wins over the KenPom Top 100. A win over the Panthers would also do wonders for the Hurricanes who now seem to have every chance to snag the ACC Regular Season title that looked so far out of reach just a week ago.

With the game just a day away, here are the three things you need to know before tip-off of Miami-Pitt:

Just like the Hurricanes, the Panthers are led by experience.

With three juniors and two seniors in the starting lineup for Pitt, it’s weird to think they won’t be the more experienced team on the floor come Tuesday night. But even if the Panthers are the less experienced team, they certainly have the talent to matchup with the Hurricanes.

Led by juniors Michael Young and Jamel Artis, two of the ACC’s most dangerous offensive threats, Pitt looks poised for an NCAA Tournament bid this season. The 6’9” Young comes into Tuesday’s game not only averaging an impressive 16.8 points per game, but averaging 6.9 rebounds a game as well. The power forward had one of his best games a year ago against Miami as he dropped 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a four-point loss to the Canes.

Despite Young coming off one of his worst games of the season with just 12 points, it was against a stout Virginia team and the junior will certainly be looking forward to matching up against someone besides the Cavaliers.

In the 6’7” Artis, the Canes and likely Davon Reed will have a difficult assignment on his hand. The junior forward has scored in double figures in all but one ACC game and poses a threat from not only behind the arc, but in the paint as well.

The Panthers also have a solid point guard in James Robinson, but they key to Tuesday’s matchup will be shutting down the dynamic duo of Young and Artis. Both players are shooting above 50% from the field this season and can grab a win for Jamie Dixon all by themselves. Whether it is Murphy and Jekiri down low against Young or Reed on Artis, the Canes better hope their experienced players can just edge the battle against Pitt’s experienced stars.

Pittsburgh’s had a solid year, but they’ve yet to beat a ranked team this season.

Coming into Tuesday night, Pitt will have a record of 17-5 overall and 6-4 in the ACC, and that’s not too bad on the surface. When you dig a bit deeper into their schedule though, the Panthers have really struggled against strong opposition.

Compared to Miami’s 11 wins over the current KenPom Top 100, Pitt only has four with none being inside the Top 30. Sure, wins over Notre Dame, Syracuse and Florida St. are solid, but in their three games against ranked opponents the Panthers have lost by an average of 15 points.

Now at the moment, Pitt looks like they’ll be playing come March, but if the Panthers start dropping games down the stretch, it could get real close considering their lack of quality wins. I would expect Jamie Dixon’s team to come out firing Tuesday night to try and grab a victory that would all but lock them into the NCAA Tournament and move them up the ladder in the ACC standings.

When you look at what Pitt has left the rest of this season, there aren’t many wins you can easily chalk up besides their home matchup against Wake Forest in a week. Considering all of this, the Panthers could really use a big-time win Tuesday and if the Canes aren’t ready, they could fall prey to a home upset.

Jamie Dixon’s teams are known for their toughness, but this Miami team has made a name for themselves with their physicality.

This season, two coaches have discussed Miami’s physicality being a factor in their game against the Canes. Usually that wouldn’t mean much, but when those two coaches just happen to be two of the most respected in college basketball in Mike Krzyzewski and Mike Brey, you know that these Hurricanes are hard to play against.

Often in the ACC when you think about toughness and physicality, the first name you go to is Jamie Dixon and Pitt. Whether it was DeJuan Blair, Sam Young or Levance Fields, the Panthers have always been a tough bunch and that is now exhibited by Jamel Artis and Michael Young. With guys like Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy though, Miami has joined the likes of Pitt, Louisville and Virginia as a team that will leave you with a few bruises after the game.

Before the season, I talked about the difference I felt Kamari Murphy would make on this Miami team. You don’t necessarily always see his contribution on the stat sheet, but you better believe that physical mentality this Hurricanes team has now is led by the Oklahoma St. transfer.

Miami certainly has the edge in terms of talent at the guard positions and on the perimeter, so if Murphy and the other Hurricane bigs can win the battle in the paint, the Canes should be in pretty good shape to pull out a victory.