Syracuse Basketball Roundtable: Upgrading Pitt's Rivalry Status?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

TNIAAM's esteemed basketball panel deals with the most important things in the world of the Syracuse Orange this week.

Welcome back to the Syracuse basketball roundtable! Another week, another win for the Orange. We're now at 18-0 and at this point, things are looking pretty positive. Well, except for the whole DaJuan Coleman injury. But we'll get to that, and several other topics today.

As is and will be the norm all season, we're chatting about Syracuse basketball, the ACC and anything else that might come up in the never-ending soap opera that is Jim Boeheim's Orange team. Join us below...

Are we at the point where Pitt basketball can move up to being a (capital "R") Rival for Syracuse?

Chris Daughtrey: I think we're way past that point. I don't think any team will ever reach the all-caps RIVAL that Georgetown is, but Syracuse and Pitt have been slugging it out for the last decade or so. They're one of the few teams in the Big East that was consistently good through that time and continue to be now that they're in the ACC. Capital "R" is confirmed,

Lisa Nelson: No. A rivalry makes your blood boil. It takes place off the court as much as on. It's about more than winning and losing; and while we're on that subject, losing to a rival is not an option. The Panthers are a tough opponent, but a rival they are not.

Matt McClusky: I think it's a capital "RRR," as in Recognizably Reluctant Rival. Pitt, through the last 12 or so years, has been a tough one for Jim Boeheim and company, but it wasn't exactly a "rivalry." Now? Based on the new surroundings and the fact Pitt is familiar, along with the sustained success of the Panthers, means Pitt qualifies as an RRR.

Jeremy Ryan: I hope not. They're a logical rival for several reasons, namely history and geography, but man those SU-Pitt games are tough to watch. Pitt plays such an ugly style of basketball - did anyone watch the Cincinnati game? - that I was genuinely disappointed when I first read that they were also joining the ACC. I still think Boston College would be a more enjoyable rivalry for SU in both football and basketball, but maybe that's just me.

Dan Lyons: I think some people already have. There's plenty of stuff to dislike with Pitt basketball - their style of play is ugly, they clutch and grab as much as anyone, etc etc - but the problem has been that Pitt's really had Syracuse's number for a while now. If the two teams have more games like this last one, and SU can start evening up the recent series numbers, then there might be something here.

Jared Smith: I think they've sorta reached that point right now. I know I hate playing those guys because they play that Georgetown-style of playing a slow-placed, physical, grind-it-out style of basketball that is tailored to beat Syracuse. I hate it so much and I hate Pitt for playing it and I enjoy beating the Panthers because they play that awful brand of basketball.

Sean Keeley: The ironic thing about SU and Pitt not being able to find a football rivalry is that the basketball version has been alive and well for years. Pitt, more than any other program in the last decade, has been the biggest thorn in the side of Jim Boeheim and Syracuse. Playing there is a nightmare and, up until recently, playing in the Dome was too. I'm glad to see them on the schedule twice. It's more fun that way.

John Cassillo: Every single time we face Pitt, there's an ounce of dread that something will go wrong. There's also an excitement that we're facing a worthy adversary. So I guess that's a Rival, without the long-time hatred. I'll take it, for now.

What's the worst part about Dajuan Coleman's injury for the rest of the year?

CD: The fact that it's going to further slow his development. I know there are concerns about front court depth, but I think they've been overstated. DaJuan wasn't playing anyway and if all you want out of him is his five fouls, you can throw Roberson in for that. So, the fact that he's going to miss half a season of competitive ball that hurts the most.

LN: Ugh, poor guy. Such a bummer for him. As for the rest of the year, it shrinks Syracuse's margin for error. There's one fewer set of fresh legs, five fewer fouls, and 280 fewer pounds to work with.

MM: Two fold: 1) It takes away another body and five additional fouls for Boeheim to fiddle with during games, and 2) it stunts any potential growth for Coleman. The sophomore wasn't having an outstanding year, but he was contributing in a more regular fashion and he still can (and probably will become) a dominate force sometime in the future -- both of those attributes are now on ice for the season.

JR: Depth. SU's rotation is now firmly seven players, Grant, Fair, Christmas, Ennis, Cooney, Keita, and Gbinije. Foul trouble, injury or fatigue could be a killer without the cushion of having Coleman available. And don't tell me about Tyler Roberson, either. If he was ready to play, he would be playing. He is not in the same place this year that Jerami Grant was when James Southerland was suspended last year. Da'Shonte Riley after Arinze Onuaku's knee injury is probably a better comparison at this point.

DL: You just know that we're going to have a game that looks like the Ohio State Elite Eight disaster, where his fouls and big frame would come in handy. That's my biggest fear for a Dajuan-less world going forward.

JS: I wrote about this a bit in the article, but IMO, the biggest problem may have is over extending playing minutes for C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Tyler Ennis. If Syracuse continues its trend of starting slow and those guy need to play 40 minutes per night from here on out it could be an issue. But, as Jim Boeheim says, these kids are 20-something-years old and they should be able to handle it.

SK: Lack of depth. At worst, you want as many big bodies as you can have to cover your ass for foul trouble. Because you know the eventual NCAA game in which Rakeem Christmas gets three first-half fouls is coming. It's just a question of when.

JC: Depth issues. We now have just 10 fouls to give (technically) at the center position, and are forced to have C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant play extended minutes. I'm optimistic that this team has progressed to the point where they can manage, but it's also not as if they're experts at putting teams away early. If SU keeps playing tight games late, everyone in the starting lineup is going to be pushed to their respective limits.

What impact will the Orange's early (close) win over Miami have on Saturday's matchup with the 'Canes?

CD: I think it helps the Orange in that they know what to expect. They know what Miami is going to try to do, so they can better prepare for it. Other than that, I think it will be business as usual for the 'Cuse.

LN: It gives the 'Canes an edge, actually. They're hoping to avenge a loss and avoid getting swept. That's pretty good motivation. And before you say that a mental edge isn't enough, think back to Syracuse's Big East tournament game against Georgetown last season. I know it's different, but my point is the same: frame of mind affects performance.

JR: Well, SU certainly won't take Miami lightly, not on the road. A five point squeaker of a win on your home floor against the steadily improving Hurricanes? I expect to see maximum effort from the Orange Saturday afternoon.

MM: I think the close game in the Dome only gives Miami more confidence. I never felt like Syracuse was going to lose to the Hurricanes earlier this month, but there is no denying the Orange had major troubles in that game. I'm betting Miami's defense (something called "2-3 zone"?) will be just as tough and any home crowd advantage will be increased based on how close the Canes came to taking down the Orange earlier.

DL: Between the first Miami game and the Pitt game - Pitt is basically Miami if Miami could score efficiently - I think Syracuse should be very well-prepared for the Canes this second time around. If the team thought it could skate by Miami in the first game, they know better now.

JS: They now have some familiarity with Miami's zone defense, which seemed to give them some trouble in the first meeting. Also, the Orange have played a bunch of slow-it-down offenses now, so that shouldn't be too much of an issue. Just don't get down too big to the 'Canes and all should be good.

SK: Certainly, this Orange team won't go into the game looking past the Canes. They are certainly capable of beating us and now they know some of our tricks. I expect another tough slog and it'll be interesting to see how both teams adjust given the result of the first game.

JC: Miami knows exactly what they're getting into, but without a major home-court advantage, I'm not overly worried. The Hurricanes' best shot is to do exactly what they did last time -- play great defense and slow the pace of the game to a crawl. Syracuse will do fine, so long as they out-rebound Miami and avoid getting lit up from three. Miami understands this, and will push to do both proficiently.

Tyler Ennis: Superior man, or demi-god?

CD: I'm not sure, but he's been playing some damn good ball so far. They way that, by now, freshmen aren't really freshmen anymore. Tyler stopped being a freshman the minute the first game started. He's by far the best freshman PG in the country, maybe the best freshman over and maybe even the best point guard. Barring a truly epic collapse, I'll be happy with wherever Ennis leads the Orange, which I think will be far.

LN: Ha. I have a hard time calling a 19-year-old a "superior man," but I can't say anything bad. He's talented, likable, and seems like a genuine, down to earth kid. That combination is rare, and we're lucky to have him.

JR: I'll settle for "good point guard", but I see you working.

MM: Ennis is simply awesome. I can't add anything here that hasn't been written or said about him already, so I'll just repeat: Ennis is simply awesome. Fans, followers and media are all lucky the kid chose to play for Boeheim -- but now the countdown to his going pro officially starts. Don't look now, but DraftExpress has Ennis going 20 in its latest mock draft.

DL: Leaning towards demi-god. Mortal man is far too flawed for Tyler Ennis to fall into that category. All hail our point guard savior.

JS: So far, Superior man. He can get to demi-god status when Syracuse wins the National Championship.

SK: How bout Superior God? The only thing that's bad is that we keep inching closer and closer to seeing him leave after this year while also getting more and more attached to the idea of another year with him.

JC: Late-game assassin sounds about right. Somehow, he flips a switch late in games and just tears through opposing defenses. Those same shots he might have missed early on suddenly become automatic. You look at the guy's face, and he's a rock; on complete auto-pilot at the end of any contest. It's impressive, and I'm thankful we have an option like that late in games.

Most surprising team (in a good way) in the ACC thus far?

CD: That's a tough one because most have been surprising is a disappointing way. But I'm going to have to go with Pitt. The Panthers haven't quite been themselves the last couple seasons, so I'm not sure many expected them to be as good as they've been. They're playing very well, though and could challenge Syracuse for the ACC regular season title.

LN: Clemson. I hate that you made me write that. Yes, they just got hosed by Pittsburgh, but the Panthers were playing angry after losing in the Dome. So far, the Tigers aren't the disjointed mess I thought they'd be. K.J. McDaniels has somehow gelled this group. They're playing well as a team, and that's translating into wins.

JR: I would say Clemson, even after they were smacked by Pitt Tuesday night. They're 13-5 overall (4-2 in the ACC), fifth in the league in rebounding and tied for first in blocks - and I had no idea until a couple of months ago that they even had a Division I basketball team.

MM: I'm fairly surprised at how good Pittsburgh seems and at how bad North Carolina has been. The Panthers came to the Dome and easily could have won if not for Ennis saving the day, and conversely, even with losing PJ Hariston, the Tar Heels should be much better than 1-4 in ACC play. I'm sure some of us may answer with Virginia, a team looking more and more legit as the season goes on, but the Cavilers were a top-20 group pre-season, and don't forget UVA was HAMMERED at Tennessee last month.

DL: I think it has to be Clemson, if only for the 4-1 conference record. They slid by BC, and had a bad loss to a decent FSU squad, but since then they made easy work of Duke, and did the same against a scrappy Wake squad. They also have wins against Temple and Davidson, and hung with a good UMass team, and almost beat Arkansas on the road where they rarely lose. Clemson's resume needs work, but I didn't expect them to do much of anything this season.

JS: As of Tuesday night it had to be Clemson right? However, they got crushed by Pittsburgh so that hurt the Tigers' status a bit. I'll go with Florida State, which looks like a NCAA team right now and I don't know how expected that was at the beginning of the season. The Seminoles only ACC losses have come to Virginia at home and away. They will be tested in their next few games with games at Duke and NC State.

SK: A lot of folks expected Virginia to be good this year, so instead I'll go with Clemson. 13-5 and 4-2 in the ACC, regardless of who they've played, has to be considered good for them. Considering how well they rebound, I think they're worth some quiet concern amongst Orange fans.

JC: Florida State's looking much better than folks realize (or maybe folks do realize, especially given their early win over UMass). They're built the same way Virginia, Clemson, Pitt and Miami are -- with a distinct ability to force Syracuse into a game they don't want. The 'Noles could be a very dangerous come the postseason and to this point, I'd say they've surpassed early expectations.

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