Pitt has owned Syracuse in recent years. The Panthers have won 14 of the past 18 in the series, including a 10-poin win at the Petersen Events Center six weeks ago.
Pitt always seems to play well versus Syracuse and for many good reasons. It’s a good matchup for the Panthers. They can use their physicality and wear down the Orange post players that aren’t particularly adept at playing tough in the paint. They also attack the zone well and have figured out ways to slow down the transition offense Syracuse likes to use after misses.
But here is the problem with picking Pitt today. Syracuse played yesterday and has the advantage of working out its kinks in a 12-point win over Seton Hall.
When I got to the Syracuse locker room after the game yesterday, C.J. Fair mentioned how the first game is always the toughest at this tournament. And once Syracuse overcame some self-inflicted wounds in the first half the Orange pulled away from the Pirates for an easy victory.
Pitt has owned the boards against the Orange. The Panthers have outrebounded Syracuse by 14 in reach of the past three meetings. They’ll have to do that again because it can be tough to make outside shots against the 2-3 zone. Also, it will be imperative for Steven Adams and Talib Zanna to make the most of their inside opportunities. Syracuse is not strong inside and Pitt’s post players will have opportunities to score. They can’t miss layups and dunks as they are apt to do sometimes.
The double bye hasn’t been good for Pitt in previous years, but I’ll go with the Panthers today strictly because of the matchup. Jim Boeheim has had 10 years or so to figure it out and he has only one win in the past six years against Pitt.
Pitt 69, Syracuse 63
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