Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Xavier Musketeers Pick & Prediction MARCH 19th 2023

Stadium: Greensboro Coliseum Greensboro
Logo Pittsburgh Panthers
Logo Xavier Musketeers

152.5o -115
-8.5 +157



So far this past week, Pittsburgh has handled two foes with much higher power rankings: Mississippi State of the Southeastern Conference and Iowa State of the Big 12.

Now the 11th-seeded Panthers (24-11) get their shot at a Big East powerhouse -- third-seeded Xavier (26-9) -- in an NCAA Tournament Midwest Region second-round game on Sunday afternoon at Greensboro, N.C.

Can Pittsburgh keep carrying the banner for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has been maligned for a season so underwhelming that it finished behind the Mountain West in KenPom's national rankings?

"One of the things that I think is unique about our league is that there are so many different styles," Panthers coach Jeff Capel said.

"I just felt like we are prepared for the different styles that we could see as we enter into March. The thing you have to do if you are fortunate enough to win, you have to be able to adapt pretty quickly because the next one comes pretty quickly."

Pittsburgh did a wonderful job stifling two poor offenses in Mississippi State and Iowa State -- holding the clubs to a combined 100 points on 30.9 percent shooting from the floor. Xavier, however, shows up Sunday with the nation's 12th-ranked offense at 81.1 points per game and the fourth-best 3-point percentage (39.1 percent).

The Musketeers also will show up with a heightened sense of awareness after nearly getting knocked off by 14th-seeded Kennesaw State on Friday. Xavier trailed by 13 points with just under 10 minutes to play before going on a 15-0 run that put it in position to secure the 72-67 win.

"I felt like we came out (and) we played timid," Xavier guard Colby Jones said. "We made mistakes that we normally don't make, but all credit to Kennesaw State. They're a great defensive team. They made it hard for us.

"In this tournament, every team is a great team, so we have to come with our 'A' game every game. I, for sure, feel like this was a wakeup call and we know what we need to do, and we're going to work over these next couple days to get it right."

Xavier was so far out of its comfort zone Friday, Souley Boum and teammate Adam Kunkel spent an extended stretch screaming and gesticulating at each other during the final media timeout.

"It's the heat of the moment," Boum said. "We've got to be sharp. We've got to be on point with stuff - and if we get a little emotional, it's nothing personal. It's just we want to win. We want to win and we want to advance. There's no hard feelings. We hugged it out in the locker room and we're fine."

Xavier coach Sean Miller spent four years running the point for Pittsburgh (1988-92) when the Panthers were trying to gain respect in the Big East. He probably identifies with the Panthers' current crusade -- as itemized by senior point guard Nelly Cummings.

"We've had something to prove since the preseason (ranking of) 14th in our conference," Cummings said. "We've had a chip on our shoulder the first time we saw that. (Having to play in) Dayton was just another example of us having to put a chip on our shoulder again. We're definitely looking forward to proving more."

--Field Level Media

Pittsburgh Panthers
Xavier Musketeers

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Xavier Musketeers Recap MAR 19TH 2023

Jack Nunge led six Xavier players in double figures with 18 points as the third-seeded Musketeers eased past 11th-seeded Pitt 84-73 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon in Greensboro, N.C.

Xavier (27-9) advanced to its first Sweet 16 since 2017 and will face second-seeded Texas in the Midwest Regional this week in Kansas City, Mo.

"It's a group of guys that have fought to climb the mountain the last couple of years and pulled up short, and it's just so rewarding to see our team, and them, finally get to the top," Xavier coach Sean Miller said on the TV broadcast after the game.

Adam Kunkel went 5-for-5 on 3-pointers in the first half to score his 15 points, while Souley Boum tallied 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Xavier. Jerome Hunter added 14 points, Desmond Claude had 11 and Colby Jones went for 10 points and 14 rebounds.

The Musketeers' high-octane offense tallied 22 assists on their 30 made field goals.

Pitt (24-12), which won a First Four game against Mississippi State and upset sixth seed Iowa State in the Round of 64, was led by Blake Hinson's 18 points. Jamarius Burton added 16, and Guillermo Diaz Graham had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Xavier held Pitt to 6-of-20 shooting from 3-point range.

"I thought for most of the game we were very confident, not perfect, but we played a style of defense that we really set out to do against their 3-point shooting," Miller said.

Xavier used a 14-3 run to turn a 15-14 deficit into its first double-digit lead with 9:30 left in the opening half. Jones, Nunge and Hunter combined to make six straight shots during the run; Hunter made it seven in a row with his short jumper before the Musketeers finally cooled down.

Kunkel took over during the final seven minutes of the half, hitting four of his five triples during that span. He punctuated a 12-2 Xavier stretch with a long 3, then gave the Musketeers their largest lead of the half, 48-29, with his final basket with 1:26 left.

Pitt trimmed it to 48-34 by halftime thanks to Nelly Cummings' 3-pointer and Burton's late layup. The Panthers got within 12 points twice early in the second half but could not get a 3-pointer to drop to help their cause.

Playing iso ball, Boum split two defenders, drove past a third and shot a layup over a fourth to ignite the crowd and deliver Xavier its largest lead at 74-54 with 7:22 to play.

The Musketeers then hit their coldest patch of the game, missing six field-goal tries in a row. This allowed the Panthers to forge a 10-0 run to slice the margin in half, with Hinson making their first 3-pointer of the half.

Nunge fouled out with 3:19 to play, leaving Xavier short-handed, and Greg Elliott hit a 3-pointer to get Pitt within single digits for the first time all half at 1:45. But Xavier was able to salt it away at the foul line from there.

--Field Level Media