Three-Point Preview: Pitt-SU

The second-ranked and still unbeaten Syracuse Orange (17-0, 4-0 ACC) face perhaps their toughest test so far this season against a very familiar foe, the Pitt Panthers (16-1, 4-0 ACC). Like the Orange, Pitt, who is now ranked #22 in the country, is undefeated in ACC play. Here is a “three-point” preview of this marquee matchup.

Brett Carlsen, Getty Images
Brett Carlsen, Getty Images

1. If anyone can beat Syracuse, it’s Pitt. Since the 2005-06 season (when the Big East expanded to 16 teams), the Orange have won only one of eight regular season meetings against the Panthers. However, the Orange beat Pitt both times they’ve met in the conference tournament during that span. The last time Pitt visited the Syracuse back in 2012, the Orange ended Pitt’s five-game winning streak in the Dome. Coach Jamie Dixon knows exactly what it takes to have his team win a game like this in this kind of atmosphere.

2. This game will be won on defense. Both teams are renowned for their defense, most notably Syracuse with their patented 2-3 zone. Pitt’s defense centers around getting pressure on the ball and forcing turnovers. They rely more on a man-to-man defense, and they’re one of the best teams in all of college basketball that run this system. Whichever team can break each other’s systems on offense will win this game. It really is a matter of executing on the defensive end.

3. Cooney will be the “X-Factor” for the Orange. Trevor Cooney had an excellent start to the season in terms of shooting the basketball. But in recent weeks, he hasn’t been shooting as well as he normally does. If Cooney can regain his confidence in his shot, then the Panthers will be in a world of trouble. If he can’t get any outside jumpers, he should mainly focus on either distributing the ball or driving to the basket and getting to the foul line, where he is currently shooting 86% on the year.

Prediction: Syracuse 67, Pitt 59


(by WIBX intern Tim Best)

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