Perhaps no head coach out there routinely had the Syracuse Orange figured out quite like Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon.
Jim Boeheim's records against some of the top coaches in the nation are all respectable. He's 3-4 vs. Coach K. 9-2 against John Beilein. 4-4 against Roy Williams. 11-12 vs. Rick Pitino.
In his 13 seasons with Pitt, Dixon went 15-6 against Jim Boeheim (and Mike Hopkins), and if not for a Tyler Ennis circus shot would probably have been 16-5. He was especially mean this season as his Panthers beat the Orange three times, including what seemed like a do-or-die ACC Tournament game.
The plot became so annoyingly-predictable that it had John wondering why he felt like we were living in a timeloop.
The answer is simple. And at the same time, it isn't. Pitt, like most teams that have found success against Syracuse's zone, ride a hot shooter all the way home. You know the names in your head. We don't need to go there.
Pitt also tries to out-physical the Orange. This has been especially effective lately when SU is pretty light inside. Last year's team was largely Rakeem Christmas and that's it. This year's team has a definitive weakness on the interior. Having bigs that play well and crash the boards isn't a guaranteed recipe for success against Syracuse, though. A much more talented North Carolina squad has had its hands full twice this year against the Orange. The Heels have better big men than Pitt. Georgetown, for all their lauded center play way back in time, never used that to completely stifle the zone. It couldn't.
Unlike just about any other coach in the country, Dixon seemed to have figured Boeheim out and considering how cantankerously stubborn Jimmy is, Dixon just had to stick to the script and more often than not he'd come out the winner. At times it almost felt like Dixon recruited for the explicit purpose of beating Syracuse as his bigs always had a field day against us. It was a cruel joke that Syracuse and Pitt were locked up as a package deal from the Big East to the ACC so long as Dixon was on the sideline.
So now that he's taking his show on the road, you can expect two things to happen.
First, Syracuse's chances against Pitt on a regular basis just went way up. There was a time when Syracuse beat Pitt with regularity (17-1 between 1992 and 2001) and while we may never get back to that we should start winning a few more games in the series.
Second, I can guarantee you Jim Boeheim never, ever schedules the TCU Horned Frogs.
Fare thee well, Jamie. We won't miss you, and that's the highest compliment I can pay.