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Previewing Syracuse’s New Next Opponent

Courtesy Pittsburgh Sports Now

Well the Orange were supposed to play Florida State on Jan. 6 after the postponement of games against Notre Dame, Wake Forest and North Carolina after a positive COVID-19 test in SU’s program. But now Florida State is dealing with a positive case of its own. 

Now Syracuse will play Pittsburgh on Wednesday in the Dome. SU has not played a game since  Dec. 19 when it defeated Buffalo in overtime. Pittsburgh also hasn’t played in quite some time, with its last completed game — a 64-54 loss to Louisville — played on Dec. 22. Since that loss, the Panthers have had games canceled against Duke and Notre Dame. 

Currently, Pitt is 5-2, 1-1 with its only Atlantic Coast Conference win occurring over Miami. Sophomore forward Justin Champagnie averages nearly 18 points per game and over 12 rebounds. While most of Pitt’s games have come against overmatched non conference opponents, the double-double average is still incredibly impressive for the 6-foot-6 forward. 

With Bourama Sidibe likely returning to the lineup on Wednesday, Champagnie will likely struggle to overpower Syracuse in the paint like he has been able to so far. 

Pitt’s second best scorer is also a 6-foot-6 forward, in junior Au’Diese Toney. Over seven games, Toney is shooting nearly 41% from three on 22 attempts. He’s also pouring in about 16 points per game, and five rebounds.

Most of the Panthers offensive output comes from three players. Syracuse fans may be familiar with the third name of the trio — Xavier Johnson. The junior is a third-year starting guard, who Syracuse was able to shut down in the two games against Pitt last season. But in 2018-19, Johnson dropped 17, then 14 points respectively in his first two games against the 2-3 zone. So far this season he’s scoring just over 14 points per game and is a reliable shooter from distance. 

This game will be a good test for both programs as they finally return to the court after COVID-19 postponements. For SU, after so much time off it will be important to watch if there is any rust. Meanwhile Sidibe’s return will almost assuredly alter minutes. Whether that comes from Marek Dolezaj, Quincy Guerrier or Alan Griffin remains to be seen. 

But for its first game back, it is beneficial that the Orange play a Panthers team likely dealing with similar rust.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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