Pitt will look to improve its ACC record to 2-1 when they travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday night at the Carrier Dome. The game will be televised on ACC Network.
Ahead of the matchup, here are five things to know going into Pitt’s third ACC game of the season.
VEGAS FAVORING THE ORANGE BY A WIDE MARGIN
Ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup, the line for this game opened at Syracuse (-9.5) according to Fanduel. Through seven games each, the Orange, as well as Pitt, both sit at 4-3 against the spread, a 57.1% mark.
Pitt, through two conference games, is 1-1 against the spread. Heading into their first ACC contest, the Panthers were a two-and-a-half point favorite over Miami, a game in which they won by 15. Against Chris Mack’s Louisville squad, Pitt was a three-and-a-half point underdog and ended up losing the game by ten.
Syracuse has only played one ACC game so far against Boston College, who the Orange demolished by a score of 101-63, covering the 3.5 point spread.
The Over/Under in this game is currently hovering around 142.5 points according to Fanduel. Through seven games, Pitt has averaged 72 points per game compared to Syracuse’s 83.7. The Orange have an average scoring margin of 15.8, while Pitt has an average margin of 7.4.
REBOUNDING BATTLE WILL BE KEY
Pitt will once again be without leading rebounder Justin Champagnie, who is averaging 12.3 rebounds per game and put together two 20-point, 20-rebound performances in his six games early on this season. Champagnie suffered a leg injury in practice, which caused him to miss the Louisville game and an additional 6-8 weeks out of the season.
Pitt is currently second in the ACC in rebounds per game, averaging 49.1. The Panthers have also won the board battle in five out of their first seven matchups this season. This will be key against a team like Syracuse, who averages 41.1 rebounds per game. The Orange, however, do have the height advantage in Wednesday’s game, with six players over 6-foot-8 compared to the Panthers’ four. Out of those four, only two, Coulibaly and freshman John Hugley, have averaged over ten minutes per game.
For Syracuse, 6-foot-10 forward Bourama Sidibe has a chance to make his return to the court against Pitt after being sidelined since Nov. 27 with a torn meniscus. On Monday, head coach Jim Boeheim mentioned that the Orange will have a full roster and that Sidibe has participated in full practices, leaving open the possibility of his return to game action coming against Pitt. If he were to take the floor, the Orange would have a clear advantage in size and length on the inside.
PITT WILL BE WITHOUT TWO PLAYERS DUE TO CONTACT TRACING
On Monday afternoon, Capel announced that two Pitt players will miss the Syracuse game due to contact tracing within the program. While he did confirm that the players are scholarship players and not walk-ons, he did not reveal who the two players were.
Shortly after that, the Pitt men’s basketball social media team delivered some hints as to who will be making the trip to the Carrier Dome. On Monday, The program’s Twitter and Instagram accounts posted this photo of Au’Diese Toney and Karim Coulibaly practicing, indicating that they were not out due to contact tracing.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) January 4, 2021
Then, on Tuesday afternoon, the program’s Instagram account posted the following pictures, revealing that Toney, as well as William Jeffress and Xavier Johnson, had boarded the team’s plane to Syracuse.
Using all of these clues, it is safe to assume that Coulibaly, Jeffress, Johnson, and Toney will be on the court for the Panthers on Wednesday night. With that being said, the two players that may be out for Wednesday night’s game will be two of the following: Gerald Drumgoole, John Hugley, Noah Collier, and Terrell Brown.
BOTH TEAMS COMING OFF LONG BREAKS
Both Pitt and Syracuse have had cancellations in the past few weeks due to COVID-19 within the programs.
Pitt’s last game came against Louisville back on Dec. 22, when it lost 64-54 at the Petersen Events Center. In that game, Pitt was without two of its top three scorers, with Toney and Champagnie both sidelined due to leg injuries suffered just days before the game. Toney will be back for Wednesday night’s matchup against Syracuse, but Champagnie still has weeks left in his recovery. Since that matchup, Pitt has seen games against Duke and Notre Dame cancelled by the ACC due to COVID-19.
Syracuse, on the other hand, is coming off its third extended break this season. The Orange have not played since Dec. 19, when they took down Buffalo in overtime at the Carrier Dome with a final score of 107-96. Before the matchup on Wednesday against Pitt, Boeheim confirmed that his team will have a full roster.
“Well, it’s no fun not playing,” Boeheim said Monday. “We had guys out. We had some guys who could have individual workouts, so it’s obviously a very difficult time and the players have done the best they can do.They’ve worked very hard with their individual stuff and we’ve had a couple practices with guys back. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. We just have to do the best that we can right now.”
XAVIER JOHNSON APPROACHING 1,000-POINT MILESTONE
Coming into Wednesday night’s game in Syracuse, Johnson has accumulated 998 career points in a Pitt uniform. With two more points he will become the 47th player in Pitt history to reach that milestone, the most recent being Jamel Artis, who accomplished the feat on Feb. 16, 2016. In fact, Pitt had three players reach 1,000 points in that season: Artis, James Robinson, and Mike Young.
Last year, Johnson became the first player in Pitt history to reach 750 career points and 300 career assists before his junior season. This season, Johnson is averaging 14.4 points per game on 45.6% from the field, as well as 34.3% from 3-point range.