Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

Pitt sits in its best position entering an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in terms of its seed, but more work needs to be done.

The fourth-seeded Panthers will meet fifth-seeded Wake Forest, a 72-59 winner against Notre Dame in the second round on Wednesday, in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon in Washington.

Pitt (21-10), which owns a three-game winning streak, received a double bye in the tournament for the first time since joining the league. That has put the Panthers in the quarterfinals for just the third time in 11 seasons of ACC membership.

“Hopefully, we’ll be fresh, rested,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said.

This will be the rubber match between the teams after they split two regular-season games, each winning at home. Pitt rallied to claim a 77-72 victory on Jan. 31 before Wake Forest registered a 91-58 blowout on Feb. 20.

The Demon Deacons (20-12) have won two games in a row since a three-game losing streak threatened to derail their season. The NCAA Tournament topic is looming around this matchup.

“I’m not worried about all that other stuff, and neither are they because we don’t know what those people are thinking in the (tournament selection) room,” Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes said. “We don’t know where we’re at right now. They’re the only people that know. What I know is in front of us is that we have a great opportunity to play the Pitt Panthers.”

Pitt standout Blake Hinson topped 20 points each of the past two games, giving him 14 20-point games this season. He averaged a team-best 18.8 points.

“We’re playing Pitt, who we split with, and they’re really, really good,” Forbes said. “Blake Hinson is one of the best shooters in the country.”

The Panthers’ Ishmael Leggett was named the ACC Sixth Man of the Year. He has averaged 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds across the past 14 games.

“He settled into that (role) pretty quickly,” Capel said. “He has had an unbelievable journey to where he is now. Not to just buy into the role, but thrive in it.”

Pitt hits an average of an ACC-best 9.65 shots per game from 3-point range.

–Field Level Media

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