Syracuse finishes its three-game road swing at Pitt on Saturday at 6 p.m. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Jim Stechschulte and Brad Bierman give their predictions below.
BRAD BIERMAN (Season Record: 2-1): Before the season started and we told you Syracuse would have only two losses (7-2) in the ACC at the halfway point of conference play would you have been happy?
I think the majority in Orange Nation would have taken that record, with a road game at Duke amongst those nine games, and that’s exactly where the Orange will sit if they can defeat Pittsburgh for the second time in 14 days Saturday night (6:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2) in front of what’s expected to be a near sellout crowd at the Petersen Events Center, the culmination of an unusual three game ACC road swing.
Pittsburgh’s lost four straight games, and 16 straight ACC road games, so playing in front of the home crowd at “The Pete” and scheduled to wear 1980s throwback gold uniforms should create a frenzied atmosphere, but that won’t faze the ‘Cuse.
Winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium already as well as Notre Dame and Boston College, along with a consistent turnout of orange-clad fans away from the Dome certainly helps, but so does Tyus Battle. As he demonstrated in Wednesday’s win at B.C with 31 points. and in the previous win over the Panthers in which he had a game-high 22 points, Battle is again the X factor against a young Pitt team, along with the SU zone that limited the Panthers to a 22-for-65 shooting game (34%).
While we think it will be a closer ending than 74-63 in the Dome Jan. 19, we see Battle, a little Buddy Boeheim (who played the same exact 21 minutes as Frank Howard Wed. night), and some key defensive stops late against Pitt’s marvelous freshman guard Xavier Johnson and company to producer another hard-earned ACC victory for Syracuse over Pittsburgh 76-70.
JIM STECHSCHULTE (Season Record: 2-0): To this point of the season, Pitt was one of easiest opponents Syracuse has seen in conference play. Two weeks ago, the Orange used a 22-4 run to take a 20-point second half lead and cruised home from there for a 74-63 win. That started a four-game slide for the Panthers with three coming at home and the other at Duke.
The Panthers shot under 34 percent against SU, including 31.4 percent from long range. That poor marksmanship is not an isolated incident, either.
In ten games against Power 5 competition, the Panthers have shot 39.8 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from three-point range. (As a point of reference, the Orange are 42.8 and 35.6 percent, respectively, against P5 competition.) SU’s 2-3 zone gave them problems in their earlier matchup, as Pitt mustered under 34 percent from the floor and 31.4 percent from deep.
Pitt shot better in their last outing against Clemson, but Syracuse has a better defense than the Tigers and we know the Panthers didn’t have a lot of success against the zone. SU 71, Pittsburgh 61.