Syracuse students agree: Beating Pitt at the Pete is pretty sweet.
The Orange make the familiar trip down to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers at the Pete. This is probably the first game of the season where I don't think Syracuse is the clear pick to win. Pitt played Syracuse very tough in the Dome and Syracuse only won by five. Can Syracuse escape the Pete, where top teams go to lose and fall in the polls?
To start, both teams are banged up. This isn't really surprising at this point in the college basketball season, but it is important. Keita tweaked his knee in Sunday's game versus Clemson. He hasn't practiced this week, but did make the trip down to Pittsburgh. It seems unlikely he'll see the floor though if he hasn't practiced Monday or Tuesday. For Pittsburgh, Lamar Patterson has been injured lately. Although it is said he is ready to go tonight, even if he does play I'm not sure how many points he'll be able to score or how effective he'll be in the game. Pittsburgh needs to generate offense and missing Patterson is definitely a blow to that cause. Similarly, missing Keita not only removes a possible five fouls from the game, but more importantly it removes probable rebounds from Syracuse's stat lines. And rebounding will be an issue. Syracuse was outrebounded by Pittsburgh in their game in the Dome, and Pitt grabbed 11 more than Syracuse. That gave them a big advantage in second chance points, keeping Pittsburgh in the game. Syracuse played pretty good defense in the game, holding Pittsburgh to only 38.3% from the floor. But when you just have to tip a ball back in, that's a pretty easy two points. Basically, if Syracuse stays close to Pittsburgh in rebounding, Syracuse can probably stay ahead on the scoreboard. If Pittsburgh keeps rebounding more than Syracuse, it will be a very close score and an uphill climb for the Orange. Look for Ennis and Fair to take over the end of this game. Fair has always played well in/against Pittsburgh, and Ennis is a cool customer at the end of games, as he was against Pitt earlier this season. I've picked the Orange to win all of there games, but today I'm going to go with history and the odds. While Syracuse could beat Pittsburgh tonight, and if anyone can in The Pete it would be #1 Syracuse (who was the first team to win in that building), I'll take the Panthers by 3.
This game is live tonight on ESPN / Watch ESPN at 7:00pm. John and I are both watching from our prospective homes so we'll be all over the internets tonight. Syracuse / Pitt games are sometimes very frustrating to watch but they are always highly and toughly contested. Win or lose, this should be another fun one, but definitely a grinder.