Pitt takes on Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
The 6-9 Panthers will head out to the Carrier Dome to take on the 7-8 Orange for the first time this season.
Boeheim’s Syracuse program is off to its worst start in over 50 years, despite having five players averaging double digits.
‘Cuse has lost each of its last three games, all in ACC play. After falling to Virginia by five, the Orange also lost to Miami and Wake Forest recently by a combined four points.
The Orange are averaging 78.5 points per game, more than 16 points higher than Pitt’s 62.4. They play with a top-heavy rotation, playing each of their five starters for at least 30 minutes in each of the last three losses. The usual five – Buddy Boeheim, Jimmy Boeheim, Cole Swider, Joseph Girard, and Jesse Edwards – are all averaging more than 11 points per game, with Buddy Boeheim leading the way at 18.6 points per game.
Syracuse shoots 45% from the field, as well as 38% from three-point land. They are solid from the free-throw line at 73% as well.
When looking at the stats, both individual and team, one would expect a better record for Syracuse than 7-8. However, the Orange are severely dependent on those five guys, and especially dependent on those five guys shooting the ball from outside.
In Syracuse’s losses, the Orange have shot the following percentages from three-point range: 30, 22, 37, 33, 31, 35, 53, 28.
Now, what about in its wins?
62, 50, 50, 42, 38, 30, 30.
The Orange live and die by the three, and they live and die by those five players, who really are not too versatile. The Boeheim brothers can shoot from anywhere and are solid creators. Girard, another shooter, but not too much flash to his game. Swider, yet another solid scorer, and he is a matchup nightmare shooting 37% from deep at 6-foot-9. Edwards is a long, pretty athletic piece in the paint who will not shoot from outside.
If Pitt can play strong defense and contain the Orange from outside, along with perhaps getting any of those five, especially Edwards, into foul trouble, the Panthers will have a chance to keep this one close and perhaps come out on top.