SU Hoops is back in action tonight in the Dome against Pittsburgh. The Orange desperately need a win as they’re in the midst of a three-game losing skid. At 7-8, ‘Cuse is off to its worst 15 game start in the Jim Boeheim era. Fortunately for Syracuse, the Pitt isn’t exactly the toughest of opponents and could be a nice “get right” game.
The Panthers are 6-9 overall, 1-3 in the ACC and just topped Boston College 69-67 last Saturday. Pitt has also had some extremely close losses at the hands of Notre Dame, Louisville, and Virginia. Those three defeats came by a combined five points. So this Pittsburgh team is certainly no pushover and in a kinder world might be 9-6 instead of 6-9.
With that said, the Panthers haven’t really been tested in road games. Pitt’s only true road win came against St. John’s with a 59-57 win in Queens, NY back in mid-December. Other than that they own losses to West Virginia, UVA, and Louisville. On top of that, Pittsburgh swept Syracuse last season so Coach Boeheim and Company figure to have some extra motivation to take care of their former Big East foe.
The Panthers rank 5th in the ACC allowing under 65 points per game. The only time an opponent has tallied 80+ on Pitt was UMBC in an 87-77 win for the Retrievers. On the flip side, Syracuse typically scores about 79 points per outing. So it’s strength versus strength and this may decide tonight’s matchup.
Pittsburgh has the worst offense in the ACC, statistically speaking. The Panthers rank 15th out of 15 teams tallying roughly 62 points per contest. That bodes well for a Syracuse team that has been thrashed at times this year and ranks dead last in the conference in its own right. Why does Pitt have the worst offense? Probably because the Panthers are also in the bottom of the conference in field goal percentage. The Panthers shoot at just a 41% clip from the field and 31% from beyond the arc.
One more thing to note, Pittsburgh is the worst team in the ACC in both turnover margin and assist to turnover ratio. Pitt is -2.87 in the giveaway margin so Syracuse could really pounce on some transition opportunities and take turnovers and turn them into touchdowns in transition (much like Miami and Wake did to them).
This is a game Syracuse has to have and quite frankly it’s embarrassing if they lose. SU matches up extremely well with Pitt and should roll in the Dome. Now the Panthers have competed well in the ACC and lost some close games. So don’t look at their 6-9 record and brush them off to the side. Pittsburgh certainly struggled in the non-con but has found its stride. The Orange will take this one though, 75-68. Syracuse will get some big contributions from the Boeheim’s and Cole Swider and provide a stiff test defensively.
Tipoff between SU and Pitt is at 7 p.m. tonight and you can catch the game on ESPNU, TK99, or WAER.