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Chas 'n Matt: Shootin' the Shit (Part II)

Below constitutes the second installment of my conversation with Chas Rich of Pitt Blather and NCAA FanHouse. Chas provides some nice insight and also gives context to an area that I previously misconstrued.

My responses to Chas' questions can be found here.

I. According to Ken Pomeroy, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are playing at markedly different paces (Pitt at 64.5 possessions per game and 'Cuse at 72.2 possessions per game). How do you think Pittsburgh will be able to enforce its will on the Orange to keep the pace of the game slow? If Pittsburgh can't control pace, do you think that the Panthers can play at an extended tempo throughout the contest?
Well, controlling the pace has been something of an issue -- especially in the road games. Not a major one to me. It has to do with keeping Syracuse from getting out on transition, as it has done in the recent past. It also means the defense denying the quick move to the basket.

On offense, well, that's the ball movement and style. Pitt is willing to go up-tempo and in fact played at a much faster pace against Oklahoma State without suffering on offensive efficiency. So, to be honest tempo is not a major concern to me for this game.

I expect this game, the pace will be a bit slower than the average for 'Cuse and a bit faster for Pitt. Still, not too far away from either team's comfort zone to be the big difference.

II. Who should Syracuse fans look out for as an X-factor or underappreciated contributor?
Well, since you probably haven't seen him much since he is a transfer, Mike Cook may catch you off guard. He's starting at small forward and actually gives Pitt a legit inside and out threat at the small forward spot. Definitely not underappreciated or an X-factor. Considering this is a veteran team that has all but Krauser back from last year, I'm not sure anyone else will really surprise Syracuse fans, per se.

Otherwise, beware of Sam Young who is back to playing power forward after trying for a bit at small forward. Between the position change and a slow recovery from tendanitis in his knees, he was struggling badly. The last 3 games or so, he has started exploding again.

III. Teams have been shooting fairly respectably against Pittsburgh this year despite the fact that the Panthers have developed a bit of a reputation as a hard-nosed, no-good-looks defensive squad. Do you expect Syracuse to take advantage of this deficiency or is the Panthers' mentality simply to stop Demetris Nichols and weather the storm of Syracuse's other inconsistent offensive attack.
I have to take you to task for the error. The shooting percentages aren't terribly different. I looked at them compared to the last couple years a couple weeks ago because of the problems on defense. Now, the defensive shooting percentages have improved further from that point according to Pomeroy. Right now Pitt's holding teams to and eFG% of 44.9. Last year the eFG% was 46.1 and the year before that 46.5. It isn't that teams are shooting that much better against Pitt.

What has happened is more second chance points.Especially in the two losses, Pitt was outrebounded on the offensive glass. That means more possessions. So even if teams are shooting the same percentage, they are getting more opportunities. That's been an issue.

Pitt has struggled against forwards like Nichols this season. I know Pitt has said they plan to throw a lot of bodies at him, but they said the same thing about that with Tucker for Wisconsin. I can't help but expect Nichols will still get his points. The goal should be to limit everyone else, and not allow the second-chance points.

Eds. Note: Touche!

IV. Finally, Pomeroy is predicting a one-point victory for the Orange (although his model also predicted a victory for Syracuse against Oklahoma State earlier in the season). Who are you taking and why?
I'm going with Pitt in this one. The big factor in Pitt's two losses was being out-rebounded I just don't think Syracuse has the players to match-up well with Pitt on the glass. Especially getting offensive rebounds for Syracuse. Pomeroy's scouting report on Syracuse reflects that as usual in the 2-3 zone, rebounds are not a big strength for Syracuse. Especially when compared to Pitt.

If Pitt limits the second chance opportunities for the Orange (and really any team) I have to go with Pitt.

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