Syracuse returns home to try to snap a three-game losing streak against Pitt. Here’s a preview of the game.
- Teams: Syracuse Orange (7-8, 1-3 ACC) v. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-9, 1-3)
- Date: Tuesday, Jan. 11
- Game Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
- Network: ESPNU
Fearless Prediction: Syracuse 68, Pittsburgh 46
The Juice Online Season Record: 3-1 (ACC)
When Jamie Dixon left Pitt for TCU in 2016, he took a 15-6 record against Syracuse with him. Since then, Syracuse has posted an 8-3 record against Pitt, albeit losing the last 2 in the series after posting seven straight wins. That translates to three straight years of Pitt losing multiple games to Syracuse, which I can personally tell you did not leave a good taste in any Panther fans mouth.
These teams are eerily similar, yet very different. Syracuse is laden with talent but is struggling to be competitive in a down ACC. Pittsburgh has a few bright spots on an otherwise lackluster roster that continues to fight but continues to come out on the losing end in ACC play, despite a close win over BC this past weekend.
Syracuse has five players averaging over 25 minutes a game with four averaging more than 33 minutes a game. These 5, and you know there names (Boeheim^2, Girard, Swider, Edwards) provide the bulk of the scoring for the Orange, and it is imperative for them to get going against the Panthers in order for them to win the game.
Pitt has one star player, John Hugley, accompanied with several role players who may beat a team that plays man defense, but this group that will struggle with the 2-3 zone. I have not seen many set jump shots out of this unit all season to feel comfortable predicting a victory for Pitt in this game.
Things would be different if Nike Sibande and Ithiel Horton were also playing for Pitt against Syracuse. However, Sibande was lost for the season with a torn ACL and Horton continues to be ensnared in legal drama after having the original charges brought against him in an assault-on-a-police-officer case dropped only to have them re-filed weeks later. Without these two chaps, Pitt will struggle for points all night.
John Hugley can step out and shoot the ball well from the baseline extended, the foul line, and even some 3-pointers. But that is about the extent of the predictable offense for Pitt. Pitt will play tough, gritty defense the entire game that will make Syracuse earn every bucket, but it won’t be enough to overcome their offensive shortcomings. The current point guard Femi Odukale can only make offense by forcing the ball to the hoop, which is not something that works well against the Orange. Unless players like Jamarius Burton and Mo Gueye step up in a major way, Pitt will struggle to get out of the 40s all night.
Syracuse has length all over the court. The 2-3 zone will make life difficult for Hugley in the post and for his teammates on the perimeter to move the ball. Both Boeheim boys will be able to stretch Pitt’s defense to create cutting lanes for their teammates. Look for Pitt to put up bad shots with little time left on the shot clock, possibly even some shot clock violations, that turn into fast breaks and easy points for SU. I know Syracuse has had their struggles this season and they aren’t that much better than Pitt currently, but this is an undermanned Panthers team that will be up against a tough opponent at home. Syracuse should smothering a weaker opponent with their trademark defense and shooting,
The only way this game is close is if Pitt can put Syracuse in foul trouble and make their shots at the foul line. That was the recipe to beat Boston College and it could work against a Syracuse team that is rather top heavy offensively. Look for this to be a strategy for the Panthers who love to get the ball to Hugley in the post and let him go to work. I don’t think that is feasible against a 2-3 zone, but, hey, crazier things have happened.