The March 9th Miami vs Pittsburgh matchup might not be the most exciting tilt to kick off the 2021 ACC tournament, but sometimes those end up being the best games. The 10-11 Panthers are -3 point favorites against the 8-16 Hurricanes, at neutral site Greensboro Coliseum.
The Hurricanes have battled injuries all season and have had one of their worst records in the last three decades. UM is still a bit shorthanded, using only 7 players in their last game. Pittsburgh is very drama-filled however, with coach Jeff Capel being reprimanded for criticizing officiating and 3rd leading scorer Xavier Johnson recently leaving the team.
Miami Likes Their Core
You need depth for deep runs in the playoffs, not so much in the opening round though. That’s why the Hurricanes like their chances in the March 9th Miami vs Pittsburgh matchup. They don’t have a lot of guys, but like the ones available.
Kameron McGusty for example went for 27 points in the win over Boston College on Friday. Sure that’s the worst team in the ACC, but 7’footer Nysier Brooks also added 21, easily a season high. Isaiah Wong is capable of the big game as well (26+ in two of the last four).
The big question is, if Miami has all this talent why did they lose 10 of 11 before beating the worst team in the ACC? They did upset Duke 77-75 on February 1st as +11 home underdogs and went to OT in a four point loss at home to Virginia Tech, but the five defeats after that have been pretty ugly, all by at least 8 points.
Champagnie the X-Factor
Pittsburgh will have the best player on the court in Tuesday afternoon’s matchup, as Justin Champagnie was the ACC’s second leading scorer (18.4) and top rebounder (11.1). Champagnie has a double-double in four of the last five, but was held relatively in check by Clemson’s stifling defense for just 13 points and 4 rebounds on Saturday.
The good news for Pittsburgh is that Miami doesn’t have near the defense as Clemson does, ranking 5th worst in the ACC in points allowed. Also on the bright side is the fact that Pittsburgh won in Miami 70-55 back in December even with Champagnie having just 10 points and 4 rebounds.
Pitt won that game in Miami as -5 point favorites and with 15 points from Au’Diese Toney and 18 from Ithiel Horton. Perhaps more importantly, third leading scorer Xavier Johnson had just 7 and the Panthers still won. Johnson had put up 12+ in 4 of 5 including 32 vs. West Virginia, but left the program back in February after falling out of graces with coaches.
Free March 9th Miami vs Pittsburgh Pick
Pittsburgh should run away with this one…should. They have the best player on the court and face a very shorthanded Hurricanes squad. Both teams are fresh though, and Miami won’t need as much depth in the first round of the tournament. The Canes have a 7-footer that can give Champagnie fits and has a very good back court.
Miami 71 – Pittsburgh 65
Free Pick: Miami +3