For the first time since 1992-1993, the Syracuse Orange will play a regular-season basketball game with the full knowledge that no matter what happens from here on out, they will not play in the post-season. Syracuse's first game in the Post-Post-Season-Ban World is the Pittsburgh Panthers. Last time we went to their place, magic happened. Will magic happen again?
Syracuse 66 - Pitt 62
Without that pesky postseason to worry about, one of the big questions out there is how the team will respond the rest of the season. This team is deeply flawed in a number of ways, but no one has questioned the effort that they give, and I don't think that will be a problem down the stretch. If anything, I think our guys rally around Rak, who is the big loser in this whole thing, and try to do some damage down the stretch. That starts with a game against a similarly fledgling Pitt team. The Pete has been a house of horrors for Syracuse and many other programs, but 2014-15 hasn't quite been the same. I'll stay optimistic and give SU a rare win at Pitt...and hope we don't waste one on a year where we won't be playing after the first week in March.
Syracuse 63 - Pitt 62
I have Syracuse winning a very tight contest in The Pete. From just glancing at both schedules comparatively, it seems like both teams are having similar seasons, with several disappointing losses, most notably to Hawai'i, Virginia Tech, and Clemson, and a few scares against BC and Bryant. In the past three seasons, Syracuse has won four and lost one. The last time these two teams met was the "Tyler Ennis Buzzer-Beater" game. The teams look a little different from a year ago, but that doesn't mean the game won't be close, as Pitt-Syracuse ones seem to be. Rakeem Christmas will shine, as he has all season-long, and will look from contributions from Cooney, Silent G, and the rest of the squad.
Syracuse 71 - Pitt 68
Why the hell not, right? Syracuse played like hell for about 37 of a possible 40 minutes against Virginia Tech on Tuesday night. And then, the following day everyone found out the season was a lost cause anyway. So why the hell pick the Orange to win here? Because of two reasons. 1) Rakeem Christmas is the best player on the court and I just want to see him crush people's basketball soul for the next month. 2) Have you seen the Panthers? They almost lost to Bryant the other night. I'm pretty sure Bryant lost to ITT Tech this season. So, yeah, I'll take the Orange in the Oakland Zoo.
Pitt 68 - Syracuse 65
Syracuse is not playing their best right now. With McCullough gone and few bench options, every possible lineup has holes. When Kaleb Joseph is on the floor, while he's a far better offensive option than Ron Patterson (just ask Jimmy B), he is a defensive liability and with James Robinson's play picking up as of late, that can't happen. We saw the kind of team that Pitt can be when they're clicking on all cylinders in their victory over Notre Dame and even if they don't against Syracuse, they'll still be a tough team to beat.
Pitt 72 - Syracuse 63
I'm not crazy about the Panthers, who have been inconsistent this season, but I have a bad feeling about this one. A few reasons why:
1) The Petersen Events Center has always been one of the toughest places to play in college hoops. Just ask Notre Dame, which lost at Pittsburgh last Saturday. 2) Pitt has a strong bench, and Jamie Dixon won't hesitate to go nine or ten deep. That should work in favor of the Panthers, especially against a Syracuse team that rarely uses more than six players. 3) Jamel Artiz is rolling, having scored at least 17 points in each of the last six games, including a 32-point outburst against Bryant on Monday. If he gets hot, it could be a long afternoon for the Orange.
Pitt 64 - Syracuse 60
This Pitt team is not as good as ones in the past, but they have a few guys on their roster that know the Orange well and so does their coach, Jamie Dixon. The Orange notoriously struggle at the Petersen Events Center, always a tough place to play, and the Panthers rank 16th in the nation in assists so they should be able to pick apart the zone enough to outscore the Orange in my opinion. I hope to see a more aggressive Orange team on offense since they don't have the postseason to play for, so maybe they can catch fire a little bit. Most likely they won't.
Pitt 69 - Syracuse 64
I just think this team's been through too much in the last week. Plain and simple. The comeback vs. Virginia Tech, while thrilling, never should've been necessary and was also taxing. The postseason ban announcement coming in on top of that HAS TO exhaust these players as well -- at least mentally. I'm not writing them off for the rest of the season, but between the Pete and the stresses of the week, this Orange team seems likely to come out flat. Rakeem Christmas still ends up scoring 18 points or so, however.
Pitt 67 - Syracuse 65
A lot of folks want to know how this team will respond to the post-season ban and I don't know if there's actually an answer to that question. If the team comes out and loses four in a row, is that because they've "given up" or just because they're playing quality opponents? Forget the ban and just look at this basketball team based on everything you know. They're capable of beating Pitt but they're just as capable of losing. Because we're on the road, I just can't predict a win, especially here.
How about you?