ACC Basketball

Pitt hoping to squeeze Orange

jamie dixon, pitt

Thanks to Syracuse self-imposing a post-season ban effective this season, thus ending any true purpose for this Orange squad, it’s not east to predict what will happen against Pittsburgh this weekend?

Will the players rally around senior Rakeem Christmas and play their best game of the year with a new ‘us against the world” mentality? Or will the sudden realization that they have nothing to play for, kill any and all motivation since they’ll just be thinking about next year?

Simple answer…I don’t know. I don’t even know if it helps or hurts that the first game since the announcement is a game away from the Carrier Dome. Yet, would any of it have mattered? It’s not like this team was a tournament lock before the decision.

Despite having 15 wins and on track to finish with 20 plus, this has not been a good Syracuse team this year. Their last good win was way back back against Iowa on November 24th. Their next best win? I’m not joking…was either a a one-point win over Georgia Tech (you know, dead last in the ACC) or a two-point home win against Louisiana Tech. According to the RPI and Ken Pom, those two are the Orange’s second and third best wins this season.

Yet, it’s not like Pittsburgh’s resume is much better. Until they shocked Notre Dame last weekend, their best win of the year was over, yep…Georgia Tech. Of course after beating the Fighting Irish last week, they nearly lost to Bryant at home.

This game features one team that can play a little offense (Pittsburgh, currently 49th in Offensive Adjusted Efficiency) and one team that can play a little defense (57th in Defensive Adj Efficiency). Syracuse’s zone has done a decent job this year keeping teams off the three line and off the glass and they are top-20 in blocks. However, in their last two, both without Chris McCullough, they have struggled in that zone. They gave up 93 points to North Carolina just two games ago (allowing the Tar Heels to hit 55% of their shots) and Virginia Tech was owning the basket against them until Jim Boeheim switched to a full-court press and forced a bunch of turnovers.

As for Pittsburgh, take away Jamel Artis’ one-man band against Bryant, this team has actually been pretty balanced. I like Michael Young working that back line of that Syracuse zone and Artis lighting it up from open spots. What I don’t like is Trevor Clooney right now. Yeah, I know a shooter is suppose to keep shooting, no matter the slump, but is a guy who has never sniffed 40% from deep really considered a shooter? In his last five, he’s hit just 25% of his long balls, missing a total of 19 threes in Syracuse’s last two games.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: Pittsburgh, 77-70

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