Syracuse will try to start a winning streak when they travel to play Pitt (7:00 p.m. ET / ACCN) on Wednesday. Ahead of the game, The Juice Online’s Saugat Sen and Wes Cheng give their predictions below.
Season Record 4-1
Starting with the loss to the Orange on Jan. 25, the Panthers are 2-7 and have free-fallen to 12th place in the ACC. Pittsburgh has the worst field goal percentage in the league and third worst average points.
The one thing the Panthers do well is rebound on the offensive end. The Panthers pull down almost 12 a game and are lead by Justin Champagnie. The 6’6″ freshman guard also leads the team in points per game at 12.3.
In that Jan. 25 game against Pitt, Elijah Hughes struggled mightily and only scored 10 points. That is unlikely to repeat again this time.
Since coming back from his injury, Hughes has been averaging 18 points a game and the Panthers will be able to do little to slow him down.
Alongside Hughes, Marek Dolezaj will be a key factor for the Orange. Last game, Dolezaj took advantage of his matchups against the Panthers and scored 17 points. The Orange will get out-rebounded on this one, but the newly rejuvenated Buddy Boeheim along with Hughes and Dolezaj will be too much on the offensive end.
The Orange hand the Panthers their third straight home loss in a 76-62 final.
Season Record 16-2
Since Syracuse’s last meeting with the Panthers on Jan. 25, Pitt has only won two games, and is currently on a four-game losing streak. They’re currently tied for 12th in the ACC with a 6-11 record, and are fighting to remain post-season eligible with a 15-13 record.
In the same period of time, fifth-leading scorer Ryan Murphy hasn’t hit a single 3-pointer, and is 0-7 during that stretch. He’s also only scored one basket in the last five games, and was 0-4 from downtown in a 59-56 loss to Virginia on Saturday.
Still, Murphy is shooting at a 33.3 percent clip on the season, which is the best outside shooting percentage on the Panthers.
That should tell you all you need to know about Pitt’s offensive struggles this season. As a team, they are shooting a combined 40.6 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from beyond the arc, and are currently 134th in adjusted offensive efficiency in KenPom’s rankings.
Defensively, the Panthers are only slightly better, ranked 95th in defensive efficiency and have given up an even 70.0 points per game since they last played Syracuse.
In the Jan. 25 matchup, Elijah Hughes struggled through a 4-13 afternoon and the Orange as a team shot just 5-21 from downtown. Pitt didn’t handle the 2-3 zone well, shooting 5-21 from distance and 38.9 percent overall.
Hughes won’t have consecutive poor outings against the Panthers, and while I do see Pitt shooting better against the zone, I still see Syracuse escaping with a 74-69 win.