Three ways Pitt can defeat Notre Dame in ACC first round |
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Jerry DiPaola
Kevin Stallings (right) could be coaching his final game with Pitt on Tuesday. The Panthers face Notre Dame in the opening round of the ACC Tournament.

Let’s be clear about what we’re about to watch Tuesday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Pitt will carry only a shred of hope into its game against Notre Dame in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

All signs point to another defeat:

• The Panthers (8-23, 0-18) are on an 18-game losing streak.

• They have lost 15 games by an average of 22 points. Notre Dame won by 17 less than a week ago.

• Pitt is the only team among 351 Division I schools that didn’t win a conference game.

But if the game starts 0-0 and each team is awarded the same number of points for the corresponding shots, there’s always a chance. That’s the essence of competition, right?

Pitt was leading N.C. State by 15 points at one time, and the Wolfpack enter the tourney as the No. 5 seed.

How can Pitt win Tuesday? Hope, prayer and plenty of 3-point shots wouldn’t hurt. Here are three ways (with a counter argument for each):

1. Win one for the coach

There is no shortage of people who believe Kevin Stallings will be fired shortly after the last game.

If that happens, it will be unfair to him because he’s worked hard under difficult circumstances (a bare cupboard left by Jamie Dixon, Ryan Luther’s injury and a roster comprising almost entirely players who never played in the ACC before this season).

Could knowing their coach’s job is in jeopardy provide motivation for the players he gifted with scholarships?

What if the next coach decides to clean house? It’s probably in the players’ best interest to save Stallings’ job (if, indeed, it can be saved).

Counter argument

Stallings said repeatedly the players never cheated the game or the program with a lack of effort, but trying hard wasn’t enough.

No matter how hard the Panthers go after loose balls and rebounds, it might not matter. Notre Dame (18-13, 8-10) has plenty at stake, too. The Irish need to convince the NCAA Tournament committee it’s a different team now that Bonzie Colson is back in the lineup. A loss to Pitt is a sure ticket to the NIT.

2. Score 3 points at a time

Pitt is tied with Clemson for seventh place in the ACC with 249 successful 3-point shots. Parker Stewart, Jared Wilson-Frame, Marcus Carr, Shamiel Stevenson and Khameron Davis have combined to hit more than 35 percent from that distance. Not great but not shabby, either.

Counter argument

When Pitt was winning the N.C. State game, it hit eight of its first 15 shots from beyond the arc. The game was lost when the Panthers were 0 for 14 from that distance in the second half. The sword cuts both ways.

3. Find some consistency on offense.

Pitt scored 75 points at Florida State, 67 at Virginia Tech and 68 against N.C. State. So it can be done.

Counter argument

Long scoring droughts have emerged in almost every game. Pitt is last in the ACC in points per game (62), and Notre Dame is fifth in defense (68.3).

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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