Pitt basketball: Pitt with a chance to dethrone Syracuse

Pitt will host the first-ranked Syracuse Orange on Wednesday in what is being hyped as Pitt’s most important game of the season to date.  Syracuse comes into the game sitting at 23-0 and running away with the ACC.  Having won two straight, Pitt is 20-4 and still in search of a signature win.

Syracuse edged out Pitt 59-54 in their first meeting at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  However, this time the two teams meet at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.  Overall, Pitt is 9-0 all-time against top-5 teams at the Pete. Given the Panthers’ recent play, it is tough to expect much of a fight out of them.  They were able to eke out two wins against Miami and Virginia Tech, but in doing so, Pitt was unable to score more than 48 points nor earn a victory in regulation in either game.

Pitt Star-Senior Lamar Patterson added, “We want another shot at them because we let one go there. It is going to be a fun game.”

That is a good sign for this Pitt basketball team, they needs Patterson to step up his production and fulfil his role as a senior-leader.  Patterson, who was relatively quiet against Virginia Tech, appears ready for this crucial rematch with the Orange.

Syracuse, led by Senior C.J. Fair, who averages 16.8 points per game, will surely be ready for the challenge against Pitt.

For Syracuse, Pitt is just one of the road blocks in the way of a perfect season.  A trip to Cameron Indoor to face the eighth ranked Duke Blue Devils and their hostile student section is on the horizon.  Also coming up this month, Syracuse, who is 10-0 in the ACC, travels to Charlottesville, Virginia to face the Virginia Cavaliers who are 11-1 in the ACC.

Syracuse backup center Baye-Moussa Keita did not practice Tuesday after spraining his knee in a contest with Clemson on Sunday.  The injury forced 6 foot 8 Jerami Grant to spend some time at center.  Grant playing center would yield a height advantage for 6 foot 9 Talib Zanna.  Keita is one of the Orange’s best defenders and his lack of presence will be noticeable.

Three keys to a Pitt win over Syracuse:

1)       Pitt needs a huge game from Lamar Patterson.  The senior needs to score at least 20 points and pace the Panthers.

2)      Pitt needs a huge game from Cameron Wright.  The junior will most likely be challenged with having to guard C.J. Fair of Syracuse.  In addition, Pitt will need Wright to add at least 15 points as they look to dethrone the Orange.

3)      Pitt needs to dominate the inside.  Pitt’s two starting forwards, Michael Young, a freshman starter at power-forward and Talib Zanna, a senior center, need to take full advantage of Syracuse’s lack of height if Keita does not play.

This game has the potential to be a huge statement win for Pitt if they are able to pull off the improbable upset of Syracuse.

I predict that Pitt hangs with Syracuse but ultimately is unable to beat them.  The Panthers have not looked their best as of late and have given me no reason to predict a Panthers victory.