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NCAA Tournament Preview: Pitt vs. Wisconsin

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The Badgers and Panthers meet on Friday at 6:50 in St. Louis.

Pitt (21-11, 9-9 ACC) faces Wisconsin (20-12, 12-6 Big Ten) at 6:50 on Friday in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The game will air on TNT.

The Panthers enter the NCAA Tournament as the 10-seed in the East Region, marking the third time in program history Pitt has earned a 10-seed. Pitt has made the NCAA Tournament in 13 of the past 15 seasons.

The Panthers are 5-5 on the season against NCAA Tournament qualifiers. Michael Young is averaging a team-high 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in those contests. Pitt beat Syracuse three times and Notre Dame and Duke once each. The Panthers lost to North Carolina twice, and also have losses to Virginia, Miami and Purdue.

After beating Syracuse in the opening round, Pitt fell to eventual ACC Tournament champion North Carolina, 88-71, in the quarterfinal round of the event. Pitt trailed 57-55 with 10:30 remaining in the game before the Tar Heels used an 11-0 run over the next 2:19 to take a double-digit lead and cruise to the victory.

Wisconsin (20-12, 12-6 Big Ten) won 11 of their final 13 regular season games, but is riding a two-game losing streak, including a Big Ten Tournament upset at the hands of Nebraska.

The Badgers are coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances. They lost to Duke in last season's national title game.

When Pitt is at their best, they are beating teams on the offensive glass. The Panthers average 12.8 offensive rebounds per game. Pitt rebounded 37 percent of their misses in ACC play.

The Panthers, one of the top free throw shooting teams in the NCAA, average 21.2 free-throw attempts per game. While the offense can struggle at times, getting to the free throw line can make up for other flaws.

Wisconsin does not score a lot -- the Badgers ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring (68.9 points) and field-goal percentage (43.0) this season -- but they are patient offensively and force opponents to play 30 seconds of defense every possession.

The Badgers -- when they are at their best -- also play excellent defense, allowing just 64.6 points per game, second in the Big Ten.

While both teams have struggled at times this season, Wisconsin probably found their game for longer and more sustained stretches of the season than Pitt was able to.

The Badgers were 11-2 over their final 13 games, while Pitt suffered through a 7-10 end to the season.

PAST MATCHUPS
Pitt and Wisconsin have met three times over the past 12 years, including a battle in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Pitt won that contest -- played in Milwaukee -- by a score of 59-55.

The Panthers and Badgers split a two-year home and home series in 2005-06 and 2006-07, with the home team winning each time.

LIMITED EXPERIENCE
James Robinson is averaging 6.0 assists per game in three career NCAA Tournament contests. Robinson and Michael Young are the only players on the Pitt roster to play more than 20 minutes in an NCAA Tournament game.

Graduate transfers Rafael Maia, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Sterling Smith are making their first NCAA Tournament appearances. The trio contributes 8.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game for the Panthers.

Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, Cameron Johnson and Damon Wilson will also be making their first tournament appearances.

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