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Pittsburgh Basketball: 3 keys to important road matchup at NC State Wolfpack

Pittsburgh Basketball is hoping to continue its road success in ACC play, taking on NC State on Wednesday night.

Virginia Tech v NC State
Virginia Tech v NC State / Lance King/GettyImages
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Pittsburgh Basketball is hoping to continue its road success in ACC play, taking on NC State on Wednesday night.

After winning at home against Wake Forest and Notre Dame, Pittsburgh Basketball stands at 5-6 in ACC play and winners of four of the last five games. They're back on the road, where they're 3-2 in league play.

The next opponent is NC State, currently 4th in the standings at 7-4. They're on the bubble and can't afford to lose at home, while Pittsburgh needs another road win (that could end up as a Quad 1 game) for them at the end of the season. Here are some keys for the Panthers to make it three straight wins.

1. Find a way to defend DJ Burns

The five-spot has been one of contention for Pittsburgh on both ends. Federiko Federiko and Guillermo Diaz Graham have had their ups and downs, with 6'8 wing Will Jeffress being the hero, guarding 7'0 center Efton Reid in the win over Wake Forest. It'll be harder to play him against DJ Burns, a 6'9 and 260-pound starting center.

Burns averages 11.5 ppg and 4.3 rpg in around 25 mpg. He's going to be a handful for anyone but the Panthers will have to find ways to deal with him. One way is to have GDG on the floor to spread the floor, something Burns will struggle at. Either way, the Panthers need to have a strategy since the guard play is the strength of the Wolfpack.

2. Limit impact of DJ Horne

NC State has three double-digit scoring guards on the team but the one guy that has emerged as of late is Horne. The transfer from ASU leads the team with 15.7 ppg, coming off 50 combined points against Miami and Georgia Tech at home. He's had a team-high seven 20+ point games, including 27 at Louisville.

One other key factor with Horne is that he shoots 42% from three-point range, with five straight games with at least three made three-pointers. As a team, NC State makes 33% from deep, good for 229th nationally. More importantly, no one else in the rotation makes more than 33%. If Pitt slows down Horne then the Wolfpack's offense could be in trouble.

3. Big game from Blake Hinson

Like with Pittsburgh and the center position, the area of weakness for NC State has been at the power forward spot. They were starting 6'6 wing Dennis Parker Jr. for a while but recently moved guard Michael O'Connell into the lineup, meaning that they're playing four guards with Burns.

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That's helped the Wolfpack offensively but made them vulnerable against true power forwards that can exploit that matchup. That's perfect for Blake Hinson, who leads the team with 18.0 ppg on 42% shooting from deep. They don't have an ideal defender for him so like what we saw at Duke, this could be a prime opportunity for Hinson to go off and keep Pitt in the game.