‘Cuse Countdown Analysts Look at the SU-Pitt Rematch
Syracuse (14-6, 3-4 ACC) heads down to Pittsburgh (8-13, 0-8 ACC) for the second matchup between the schools in two weeks. The Orange came out on top in the Carrier Dome 59-45 on January 16th, but it still struggles on the road (1-4 in games away from the Dome). Our analysts give their keys and predictions for SU to earn its third straight win and second against Pitt this season.
Key to the Game: Shut Down Parker Stewart
When the Orange and Panthers met last week, Pitt Freshman Parker Stewart tallied 23 points and went 7 of 13 from behind the three-point line, leading all scorers. With the Panthers’ leading scorer Ryan Luther out for that game, the Orange was able to contain other offensive threats in Jared Wilson-Frame and Marcus Carr. Stewart was left open to have the best game of his freshman season so far. If Syracuse wants to go 2-0 against rival Pitt this season, preventing another phenomenal performance by Stewart is a must.
Prediction: Syracuse 72-63
After an inspiring big win against Boston College, the Orange offense is feeling revamped on the backs of big performances by Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett. This game against Pitt (hopefully) won’t be as sloppy as last week’s matchup, and the confidence gained by the Syracuse offense should be enough to boost it to another comfortable win.
Key to the Game: Bring the Energy
To be blunt, Syracuse’s shooting is not something that has consistently been there. For a game like this against Pittsburgh where the Orange comes in favored against a frankly terrible Panthers team, bringing energy is important. These road games are what kept SU out of the tournament last season. The Orange must not overlook a Pitt team that is winless in the ACC. If Syracuse plays with hustle, even if the shots do not fall the team will still pull out the victory comfortably. The only way for SU to lose this game is to shoot poorly and get out hustled, just like in the Notre Dame game.
Prediction: Syracuse 65-51
There is one thing you can consistently expect with this Syracuse team and that is good defense. What you have not been able to expect is consistent offense. Maybe this past game against Boston College will be the breakthrough for this team, but I need to see more. I expect the defense to be dominant against what is frankly a terrible offensive team. The Panthers are 336th in the nation with 64 points per game (there are only 351 Division I teams in the country). If the Orange hits shots, the team cruises to victory, but if not the team wins a relatively close one. I expect this game to follow a similar track to the first one with SU pulling away in the second half.
Key to the Game: Limit Turnovers
Pittsburgh turns the ball over the most of any team in the ACC, and Syracuse needs to value these extra possessions. SU turned the ball over less than 12 times in victories over Pitt and Boston College. If the Orange can replicate these performances, it puts itself in a position for its second victory of the season over the Panthers.
Prediction: Syracuse 62-55
The Panthers are 0-8 in ACC play and enter Saturday’s matchup off its closest chance for a league win, a four point loss versus NC State. Pitt’s offense looked sluggish in its trip to the Carrier Dome, turning the ball over 18 times in SU’s win. Syracuse comes into this weekend off its best performance of the season, notching 81 points in a victory over Boston College. The Orange come in with confidence and pick up a road win over an inferior opponent.
Key to the Game: Stay Hot
The “bye week” proved useful for Syracuse last week, as the Orange offense put on a clinic against a much improved Boston College team. The 81 point outburst proves that there’s a sleeping offensive giant among this Orange team, and it was only a matter of time until Jim Boeheim woke it up. The Orange tallied 30 points in the paint, while knocking down seven three pointers. ‘Cuse’s trouble on the road has been well documented, but if Syracuse can consistently score from different spots on the court, they should have no problem in Pittsburgh. Five Orange players scored in double-figures Wednesday night. The potential for a dynamic Syracuse offense is there, but the Orange needs to provide consistent scoring efforts night in and night out.
Prediction: Syracuse 75-64
Syracuse is 1-4 in road games this season. The Orange’s inability to pick up a signature road victory last year likely kept it out of the NCAA tournament. The Orange have an opportunity to rewrite that narrative against the worst team in the conference on Saturday afternoon. ‘Cuse learned a valuable lesson from its January 16th matchup with the Panthers: do not let Parker Stewart get hot from three-point land. Pitt has not defended its home court well this year, going 0-4 at home in ACC play. They dropped a heartbreaker earlier this week against NC State, and if there is one constant in the ACC this year, it’s that anybody can beat anybody. ‘Cuse, however, is riding an offensive surge, and will pull this one out, extending their win streak to three.
Key to the Game: Pick up the Pace
On Wednesday night, the Syracuse offense finally got into a rhythm in a resounding 81-63 victory over Boston College. The Orange didn’t look timid at all and that was partially because it picked up the pace on offense. There was less standing around and less waiting for others to step up. Instead, SU looked confident and decisive. If Jim Boeheim’s bunch can play with that same tempo on Saturday the offensive improvement will continue.
Prediction: Syracuse 64-60
This game is going to be closer than most are expecting. Pittsburgh showed some fight in its last game against N.C. State and Syracuse always struggles on the road. However, at the end of the day, the Panthers don’t have enough experience to clinch the game down the stretch. SU will take advantage of some costly Pitt turnovers late and pick up a must-win game on the road.
Key to the Game: Suffocate the Pitt Offense
Syracuse has had good days and bad days on the offensive end, but it won’t matter which shows up Saturday as long as the defense comes to play. Pitt brings to the table the worst offense in the ACC, averaging close to 55 points per game. The Orange have a top 20 scoring defense, and have gone toe to toe with the conference’s best on nights where the offense was nowhere to be found. As long as SU holds Pitt below 60, whatever offense shows up will be good enough.
Prediction: Syracuse 70-54
The Orange already made easy work of the Panthers this month, and Pitt won’t gain much of an advantage by playing this one at home. The Panthers had less than 3000 fans in attendance Wednesday against NC State, a number that reflects Pitt’s tough season. Syracuse’s offense had its best game in ACC play against Boston College, and the Panthers simply don’t have the weapons to get by SU for their first conference win.
Key to the Game: Keep Riding the Wave
In its previous outing against Boston College, Syracuse displayed a level of confidence the team hasn’t exhibited all season. After the Eagles made their first four threes of the game, Jim Boeheim settled his team down and ‘Cuse scored seven straight to tie the game, never looking back. Oshae Brissett impressed with 12 points in the first 10:07 of the game, and Marek Dolezaj scored more points (12) on Wednesday than he did in every other conference game combined. The Orange should have no trouble building momentum against a Panthers team that ranks outside the top half of the ACC in every major statistical category. Although Pittsburgh finished five points shy of an upset win against NC State on Wednesday, Kevin Stallings’ squad has been on the wrong side of the scoreboard now for over a month.
Prediction: Syracuse 75-57
Pitt struggles to score the basketball (338th in the country), rebound the basketball (309th in the country), and hold onto the basketball (303rd in the country in turnovers per game). Translation: ‘Cuse should dominate. Keep an eye out for the health of SU forward Matthew Moyer; if he cannot give it a go, the Orange’s already-limited firepower off the bench will be squeezed tighter, which may make this contest a bit closer than it should be. Although Jerome Lane sent it in 30 years ago this week, Pittsburgh will fall well short of a W.
Key to the Game: Protect the 3-Point Line
A little over a week ago, Pittsburgh freshman guard Parker Stewart hit seven threes against Syracuse. SU still won by 14 points. Why? The rest of the Panthers roster combined to go 1-10 from deep. It’s unlikely lightning will strike twice with Parker, which is good news for the Orange. So far, when ‘Cuse’s opponents have shot worse than 35 percent from downtown, the Orange is 8-3. If SU can shut down Pitt from beyond the arc, they should cruise to a victory once again.
Prediction: Syracuse 68-52
The most interesting part about this game will be SU freshman Marek Dolezaj’s performance. The Slovakian big man will likely get significant minutes with Matthew Moyer out with an ankle injury. In limited minutes, Dolezaj has a higher win-share than Moyer, is a better shot-blocker, and has nearly triple the number of assists than Moyer. Watch for how confident Dolezaj looks with his jump shot. If the freshman continues to contribute consistently offensively, Matthew Moyer might not have a starting spot when he’s healthy enough to resume playing.