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UNC vs. Pittsburgh: Three Things to Watch

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The Heels will take on a reeling Panthers team in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Here are three things to watch for that game.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina will travel to Pennsylvania to play Pitt on Saturday. This game could very well be tough, and here are three things to watch.

This could be a trap game.

In many ways, this game feels like a trap game. The Heels are coming off a great home win over Louisville, and they will be playing at Virginia on Monday. Furthermore, the Heels will be playing at noon. The last time they played a team on the road at noon on a Saturday, they were blown out by 15 at Miami. Pittsburgh, despite what their record shows, is not a bad team and certainly won’t be a pushover (the only real pushover in the ACC this year are our friends in Raleigh). Remember that just a little over three weeks ago Carolina barely beat Pitt at home 80-78.

After two great, tough, and emotional wins over top-25 teams, Carolina could be in for a letdown against Pitt. Add the fact that they are playing Virginia on the road just two days later, and this becomes a definite trap game. The Heels need to come out strong and they need to not overlook their opponent if they want to come out of Pittsburgh with a win.

The defense needs to show up.

Carolina has had two straight excellent defensive performances, holding Virginia to just 41 points and Louisville to just 63. However, on the road in the ACC this year, UNC has allowed an average of 73.8 ppg to opponents, compared to allowing just 65.9 ppg to ACC opponents at home. Over its last two games Carolina has allowed Virginia and Louisville to only shoot a collective 7 of 40 from beyond the arc, good for only 17.5%. Carolina needs to continue to play this good of perimeter defense if they want to beat Pitt, who shot 44.8% from the three in their two point loss to the Heels.

Can Justin Jackson continue his ACC Player of the Year Pace?

Justin Jackson has averaged an amazing 19.7 ppg in ACC play, and is shooting 38.8% from the three. He is currently one of the front-runners for winning the ACC Player of the Year award, the other being Luke Kennard. Jackson had 21 points against Louisville, and he had 20 points against Virginia, 18 of them in the first half. While Berry is the team’s floor leader, Jackson is their best scoring threat and he is playing very well. If he can put up another great 20+ point performance at Pitt, he will likely be considered the favorite to win the award. A 20+ point performance would also help the Heels win in what will be a tough environment at Pittsburgh.

The game will be on at 12:00 eastern time on 12:00 on the ACC Network. The Heels look to improve to 4-0 over the Panthers in the past two seasons.