ACC play begins in full swing for the Pitt Panthers Tuesday night in New York.
Pitt battles Syracuse to jump-start the ACC calendar following one previous conference game for both teams. The Panthers and Orange won their ACC openers against N.C. State and Notre Dame, respectively.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (8-4, 1-0 ACC) matchup against the Syracuse Orange (8-4, 1-0).
Emergence of Elliot
Graduate student Greg Elliot is making a strong impression on his new team. Playing the past four years at Marquette, Elliot averaged 5.6 points and 2.1 rebounds last season. He only started in one of the 26 games he appeared in. The 6-foot-3 guard has started all 12 games for the Panthers, averaging 11 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.5 minutes.
“Greg is a really, really good teammate,” head coach Jeff Capel said after the North Florida win. “I think he is an elite teammate. When he joined our program, we knew that he was a good player, we knew that he could shoot the basketball. But again, you don’t really know anyone until you’re with them. You can recruit these guys and think you know them, but until you’re with them, you don’t really know them. He [Elliott] is an even better teammate than I thought.”
Shooting the ball effectively from the floor, especially behind the three-point arc, has defined Elliot’s role as a scorer. He is averaging a 47.3% clip from the field and 43.5% from three, the best three-point percentage on the team. His impact as a leader and strong teammate has pushed his importance to the Panthers to a new height.
The fifth episode of Just Buckets with Jamarius Burton and hosted by Pittsburgh Sports Now‘s George Michalowski is now available.
Mintz to Face Pitt
Former four-star prospect Judah Mintz will face a Panthers team he once committed to play for. A freshman guard for Syracuse, Mintz stated that he wasn’t 100% sure of his decision to play at Pitt, but with signing day fastly approaching he needed to pick a school. He de-committed from Pitt in November of 2021 and landed with the Orange months later.
Mintz has made an immediate impact on Jim Boeheim’s Orange. Playing over 30 minutes per game, Mintz averages 14.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 4 assists while shooting 43% from the floor. The freshman has scored 16 or more points 17 times and peaked at 24 against Monmouth on Dec. 12. He does struggle behind the arc, shooting only 14.3%.
Mintz has not only become a reliable scoring option but possesses critical defensive traits against high-level ACC guards. He averages 2.1 steals per game entering ACC play and will be a player to watch throughout the game.
Syracuse tips off the ACC schedule riding a five-game winning streak and defending home court six times in eight opportunities. The Orange were blown out against then No. 16 Illinois 77-44 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 29, but have not lost since. Always a tough out, Syracuse totaled 7.9 steals as a team utilizing its famous 2-3 zone and the increased use of man-to-man. The team also takes care of the ball, tied for 49th in the country with 10.9 turnovers compared to 13.2 for Pitt.
The Orange struggle mightly from behind the arc, tied for 314th in basketball with 5.8 triples per game and tied for 211th shooting at 33.3%. The matchup more than likely will come down to which star player makes enough impactful plays down the stretch.
Senior guard Joseph Girard leads the team in points (15.2) while shooting 35.5% from three and making over 85% of shots at the line. Center Jesse Edwards is tied with Mintz in average points (14.9) while averaging a double-double at 11.3 rebounds thanks to an incredible 66.4% shooting clip. Forwards Benny Williams and Chris Bell are other key contributors who have started every game for the Orange. Syracuse has used the same starting five for all 12 games.
Syracuse is favored by 3.5 points in Tuesday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The line has remained steady since opening at 3.5.
The Panthers are 8-3-1 ATS this year, according to Covers.com, and continue on a roll of covering the spread. Pitt covered the past seven games in a row against Fairleigh Dickinson, William & Mary, Northwestern, NC State, Vanderbilt, Sacred Heart, and North Florida. The Orange are 6-6 ATS and the over has been reached in five of their opportunities.
The over/under for the game is set at 137 points. Syracuse is +145 on the money line with Pitt the underdogs at -170. The over has hit in seven of the Panthers’ matchups.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Pitt-Syracuse matchup will air on ESPNU beginning at 9:00 p.m. Mike Corey and Chris Spatola have the call from the Carrier Dome. The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Pitt hosts preseason No. 1 North Carolina (8-4, 0-1) on Friday, Dec. 30 at 12 p.m. in the final game before 2023.