Previewing Pittsburgh

North Carolina opens its ACC Tournament on Friday against Pittsburgh, which cruised past Wake Forest to reach the quarterfinals. The game will tip-off at the Greensboro Coliseum at approximately 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcast by ESPN or ESPN2 and the ACC Network.

North Carolina (23-8, 13-5) vs. Pittsburgh (24-8, 11-7)
Greensboro, N.C. -- Greensboro Coliseum
Friday, 2:30 p.m.
ESPN/2 (Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas)
ACC Network (Tim Brant and Mike Gminski)

Quotables

"I'm really proud of our guys and how we played... I think our team is playing its best basketball." -- Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon following his team's win over Wake Forest on Thursday

"Everyone is healthy, everyone is ready to go. We're dialed in. Today was just a sign of that. We've got to just bring the same energy and same effort tomorrow, and then we'll see how it goes.- Pitt forward Lamar Patterson following Thursday's win

PREGAME NOTES

Since the Last Meeting: Pittsburgh enters Friday's ACC quarterfinal with a 24-8 (11-7 ACC) record. Nothing came easy for Jamie Dixon's squad after losing to North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Feb. 15. The Panthers dropped home games to Florida State (71-66) and N.C. State (74-67) and needed overtime to outlast Notre Dame (85-81) and Clemson (83-78). Pitt also knocked off Boston College (66-59) to end its three-game losing streak on Feb. 26.

ACC Tournament Results: Pitt defeated No. 12 seed Wake Forest, 84-55, in second round action on Thursday. The Panthers rebounded their first five misses in jumping out to a 17-6 lead and never looked back. Lamar Patterson led all scorers with 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Talib Zanna added 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds.

Senior Gearing Up: Patterson has been the primary offensive option for Pittsburgh during its inaugural season in the ACC. The second-team All-ACC forward is averaging a team-high 17.8 points on 45.1 percent shooting to go along with 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Patterson is the third player in school history to surpass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists in his career. After being hobbled by a bum thumb in February, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior has been lethal in March, averaging 22.8 points on 45.9 percent shooting (28-of-61).

Force Down Low: Fellow fifth-year senior Talib Zanna has served as Patterson's balance in the post this season. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward is averaging 12.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. His 8.9 rebounds per game in ACC play ranked second and he's been even stronger on the boards of late. The Kaduna, Nigeria native is averaging 10.5 rebounds over his last eight games.

Success Via Balance: While the Panthers may not be the best at any one thing, their versatility across the board helps explain their 11-7 conference record. Pittsburgh ranks in the top-six in 17 different statistical categories in ACC play. Dixon's squad ranks sixth in both field goal percentage (44.5) and field goal percentage defense (42.7), as well as standing third in rebounding margin (plus-3.4) and fourth in turnover margin (plus-1.0) and assist-turnover ratio (1.3:1).

Not Afraid of the Road: Pitt finished the regular season as one of just 11 programs nationally to win 10 or more games away from home (10). The other 10 teams, led by Wichita State (17) and Florida (11), are all expected to secure high seeds on Selection Sunday. Last Meeting: UNC held off Pitt, 75-71, on Feb. 15 at the Smith Center. The Tar Heels took a 61-49 lead with 8:50 to play before allowing the Panthers to pull within two points down the stretch. Lamar Patterson missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with seven seconds left. UNC hit 5-of-6 free throws in the final 55 seconds to secure its sixth-straight victory. James Michael McAdoo led all players with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while Marcus Paige added 18 points (5 3-pointers) and four steals.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with Pitt, 8-1. The Panthers' lone win came in the 1941 NCAA Tournament by a score of 26-20.

Projected Starters:
0 James Robinson (6-3, 200, So.) - 7.8 ppg, 3.9 apg
3 Cameron Wright (6-4, 205, Jr.) - 10.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg
21 Lamar Patterson (6-5, 225, Sr.) - 17.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg
2 Michael Young (6-8, 245, Fr.) - 6.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg
42 Talib Zanna (6-9, 230, Sr.) - 12.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg

Top Reserves:
1 Jamel Artis (6-7, 230, Fr.) - 4.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg
13 Josh Newkirk (6-1, 185, Fr.) - 4.3 ppg, 1.5 apg
11 Derrick Randall (6-9, 240, Jr.) - 2.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg

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(Photos by USA Today Sports)

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