Tonight, the Panthers will start ACC play at home against an always tough Syracuse Orange team. When Pitt plays Syracuse, the game is always a classic. More times than not, the score is close, the crowd plays a huge factor, and the players give it their all. Last year, Pitt won both games against Syracuse, 83-77 at home and 65-61 on the road. Last year was a down year for the Orange but they still managed to give us two close games. That should be the case tonight, as they have already dropped three games on the season and are 0-2 on the road. No matter their record, this game is always a battle.
If Pitt is smart, they will go out and pressure this team early and try to force a lot of turnover. This Syracuse team has struggled this year offensively, as they are 195th in the nation in points per game at 72.8 and have problem with holding onto the ball. With the fast and deep front court that Pitt possesses, it makes sense for them to get on this team and put them away early on. One player Pitt will need to look out for is forward Michael Gbinije, who is averaging 18.6 ppg and 48.5 field goal percentage. On the defensive side, they haven’t played as bad, as they are tied for 44th in the nation in points allowed per game. As an above average team in both steals and blocks per game, I expect this to be the reason for any Pitt struggles that we see tonight. Although they haven’t been playing their best basketball, there is a lot of potential on this Syracuse team, and that, along with this great rivalry, should make this a close game the entire way.
Now I know I said this is a rivalry and it should be a close game, but with the way Pitt has been performing this year, they have no reason to lose this game. Pitt is playing like one of the best teams in the country in my opinion and are a few big wins away from being talked about with those top teams. Ranked 15th in the nation in scoring at 85.5 points per game, Pitt is starting to look like the old Panthers with Dejuan Blair and Sam Young. Michael Young has turned into the clear cut leader of this team, as well as the Panthers best player. He is leading the team with 17.4 ppg as well as field goal percentage at 60.4%. Then there is Jamel Artis, the 6-7 small forward who is averaging just over 15 ppg. From the outside, it looks like good shooting is the reason for the high number of points a game, but when you take a closer look, it has nothing to do with that. It has all to do with the unselfishness of these players and how patient they are to get the best shot they can. The passing on this team is probably the best that I have ever seen from a Panthers squad, which is why they are ranked 4th in the nation in assists at 20.2 per game.
Not only are they strong on the offensive side of the ball, but they are giving up just 63.3 pointes per game, good for 32nd in the nation defensively. This team is long, athletic, and they make it very hard for teams to get a good shot against them. They have played strong along the perimeter and are a great rebounding team (42.8 rpg). Not only are they good on the boards, but they also make it a key part of their game to get their hands in shooters faces, as this had allowed them to be in the top quarter in the nation in blocks per game.
On paper, this game should not be that close in favor of the Panthers, but the fact that this is a rivalry against a team that always plays us well, I expect a good, close, hard fought game from both sides. And although it will be close, I still believe the Panthers will come out on top when they tip-off tonight at the Peterson Events Center at 9 pm.
Written By Burgh Blog Co-Creator Brandon Stiehler
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