‘Cuse Countdown Looks at SU Basketball’s Return to the Dome vs. Pittsburgh
Key to the Game: Make Every Shot Count
It’s no secret that the Syracuse offense has struggled through most of the season. Though the Orange has an advantage over Pitt in almost every category coming into this game, the one advantage the Panthers do have is shooting. Pitt shoots 43.2 percent from the field this year compared to the Orange’s 42.3 percent. Though Pitt’s advantage is slim, the Orange hs to be careful about shot selection in order to get its first win of 2018.
Prediction: Syracuse 71-60
Both teams come into this game on tough losing streaks, and Pitt has yet to win a game in the ACC. The fact that the Orange is back in the Carrier Dome after back-to-back road losses will be a major factor in this one as it finally gets the home crowd back on its side. If Syracuse is smart about its offense and plays stout defense to neutralize Pitt’s slight advantage in the shooting department, the Orange should not have a problem downing the Panthers.
Key to the Game: Rebound
The glass was not kind to the Orange against Florida State this past weekend. FSU dominated the boards, allowing the Seminoles to outshoot SU 82-67. Crashing the boards would be a great boost for SU against the Panthers. Pitt is the second-worst rebounding team in the ACC. If the Orange can take advantage on the glass, it can mask some shooting deficiencies. Even though Syracuse scored 90 points against Florida State the Orange still shot just 39% from the floor. Attacking the glass can help provide extra opportunities even if Syracuse’s shots do not fall.
Prediction: Syracuse 73-59
To be blunt, Pittsburgh is not a good basketball team. The normally solid Panthers are 0-5 in the ACC this season and have lost all 5 of those games by double digits. Despite the fact that the Orange has lost 6 of the team’s last 7 to Pittsburgh, this is not the same Panthers team Syracuse fans are used to seeing. If SU shoots well, this game will be a blowout, but if not, this game could play out similarly to the Notre Dame game. Do not be surprised if this game is close for a while because the Orange defense should shut down the Panthers, but Syracuse needs to make shots to pull away (which has been a struggle at times). Either way the Orange should take home a victory at the Dome.
Key to the Game: Defend the Three
Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s worst offensive teams, ranked 323rd in the country in points per game. More than 45 percent of the Panthers’ shots come from beyond the three point line. Syracuse’s defensive job is simple—contain the outside. Pitt has the ability to get hot from deep, notably in a victory over Lehigh in which the Panthers knocked down 10 triples. If the Orange neutralizes the threat from deep, it can stifle an already lethargic Pitt offensive attack.
Prediction: Syracuse 71-52
The Panthers are 0-5 in ACC play and have been outscored by an average of 20.8 points per game in those five games. And while the Orange has lost four in a row, SU is 9-1 within the confines of the Carrier Dome. Syracuse returns home after taking the 23rd ranked team in the nation to double overtime, a game in which Tyus Battle notched a career-high 37 points. Against an noticeably lesser opponent, the ‘Cuse should cruise to its 13th win of the season.
Key to the Game: Drive and Dish
In their five conference losses, Pittsburgh surrendered 42.8 points in the paint per game. The Panthers are vulnerable down low. Inconsistent outside shooting plagues the Orange offense this season and the best remedy for that is to create high percentage shots. ‘Cuse ball handlers need to attack the rim in order to draw help defense, then look to dish to big men like Paschal Chukwu and Bourama Sidibe for easy buckets. This strategy will beat the Panther defense and create better shooting opportunities as the game wears on.
Prediction: Syracuse 73-63
The Orange will right the ship after a heartbreaker in Tallahassee. Jim Boeheim’s squad hasn’t played a complete game since the Virginia Tech victory more than two weeks ago. But the Orange offense showed signs of improvement against the Seminoles, ringing the bell for 90 points in the double-overtime loss. Expect the offense to continue to click, and the defense to suffocate the struggling Panthers. I hate to use the term “must-win” in the middle of January, but Syracuse desperately needs this one.
Key to the Game: Protect the Offensive Glass
After a strong start to the season in the rebounding department, Syracuse has been getting banged around on the boards of late. In the past three contests, the Orange has surrendered 19 offensive rebounds per game. Pittsburgh might have less talent than Syracuse but the Panthers do have Ryan Luther, who is one of the best rebounders in the ACC. The 6’9” senior grabs 10.1 rebounds per game. Syracuse needs to contain him and do a better job on the glass Tuesday night.
Prediction: Syracuse 75-58
This game comes at an ideal time for Syracuse. Pittsburgh is dead last in the ACC standings for a reason. The Panthers are inexperienced and careless with the basketball. Kevin Stallings’ bunch currently ranks 285th in the nation with an average of 14.5 turnovers per game. Expect Syracuse to turn those mistakes into transition buckets and have one of its best offensive games of the season.
Key to the Game: Don’t Ease Off the Gas
Syracuse has lost too many games late this season where it had the chance to win. In fact, the Orange have held the lead in the second half in every ACC loss this year. SU can compete with anyone, but if it keeps struggling to put away games, Syracuse will have a lot of extra time to practice come March.
Prediction: Syracuse 66-55
While Syracuse and Pitt are in close proximity at the bottom of the ACC standings, the Panthers are by far the worst team in the conference. Pitt has not beaten a major conference opponent this season, and they won’t break through against the Orange in the Dome. The loss of leading rebounder Ryan Luther will make it even harder for Pitt to compete with the bigger stronger Orange. In the end, SU will pick up a much needed win to snap its losing streak and try and climb back up the ACC.
Key to the Game: Relax and Play Your Game
A 1-4 start to ACC play isn’t ideal, but Syracuse is a better team than that record shows, as it could have easily flipped the script in three of those losses. The Orange continue to play solid defense despite giving up 101 points in 50 minutes of play against FSU on Saturday, and now takes on a Pittsburgh team that doesn’t have an individual scorer within the ACC’s top 30. The Panthers haven’t won a game against any Power Five opponent yet, and their most glaring weakness plays well into the hands of SU. Pitt is 288th in the country in rebounding margin, which should allow slashers Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and center Paschal Chukwu to attack the offensive glass with ease. There is no need to tweak the game plan against a team that has found the “L” column in every contest since a victory against Towson before Christmas.
Prediction: Syracuse 75-61
This is a no-excuse game for the Orange, as the team cannot afford a loss against Kevin Stallings’ struggling squad. Jim Boeheim will prepare his players well, as he knows the next few games are valuable and winnable before heading into February’s tough slate. Pittsburgh lacks a team identity and SU should be able to expose the opposition’s lack of talent. Expect Brissett to record a double-double, and maybe even Matthew Moyer will make an impact if he isn’t relegated to the bench early.
Key to the Game: Take an Early Lead
Jamie Dixon’s departure for Pittsburgh’s head coaching position has all but tanked the Panthers’ basketball program. The most obvious deficiency for Pitt is on the offensive end, where Kevin Stalling’s team has failed to crack 60 points in five of its last six contests. Kenpom ranks the Panthers 202nd in offensive efficiency. Syracuse meanwhile ranks in the top-15 in defensive efficiency. If SU can take an early lead, it will be nearly impossible for Pitt to climb back into the game and score on Syracuse’s length and athleticism.
Prediction: Syracuse 69-53
Junior guard Jared Wilson-Frame has played well for the Panthers this season, but it’s going to be difficult to lead the youngest roster in Power-Five basketball past Syracuse at home. The Orange’s 2-3 defense is difficult enough to solve with an experienced, stable team. Pittsburgh, who likely will roll out their 14th different starting lineup in 17 games, is too inexperienced, too young and in too much disarray to give ‘Cuse a scare.