Teams: Syracuse Orange (9-6, 1-1) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (12-3, 1-1)
Day & Time: Saturday, January 7, Noon ET
Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Line: N/A, at the moment
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Pitt Blog: Cardiac Hill
Rivalry: 65-44, Syracuse
Current Streak: 5, Pitt
First Meeting: Lew Castle scored 20 in a 36-29 overtime win over the Panthers in 1914. It was the first of six straights wins for the Orangemen to start this series. Castle Court was briefly named LEW Castle Court as students took to “pound symbol Save Cuse” and utilize their God-given right to rage in a parking lot with Coors Banquet Beer in celebration.
Last Meeting: We thought Syracuse needed a win in the opening round of the ACC Tournament against Pitt. Ends up they didn’t, but that didn’t make the Orange’s 72-71 loss any easier to stomach at the time. Pitt’s Cameron Johnson lit up Syracuse for 24 points, while Michael Gbinije matched with 24 of his own. It was pretty much like every other Pitt-SU game.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (41st Year, 994-348); Pitt: Kevin Stallings (1st Year, 12-3)
Head Coach Bio: Stallings played at Purdue (after transferring from a JUCO), then went the assistant coaching route with the Boilermakers and Kansas Jayhawks. He got his first head coaching gig with Illinois State in 1993, coaching the Redbirds to four 20-win seasons, two Missouri Valley titles and even an NCAA Tournament win during his six-year tenure.
For the next 17 seasons, he coached at Vanderbilt with up and down results. The Commodores first made the NCAAs under Stallings in 2003-04 (his sixth season), getting all the way to the Sweet 16. They’d repeat the feat a few years later in 2006-07. From 2006-07 through 2011-12, they won 22 or more games five times, though the ‘Dores never got further than the Sweet 16 in any of those seasons, nor did they finish higher than second in the SEC.
Last Year: Pitt went 21-12 and 9-9 in the ACC, finishing eighth in the conference. They won one game in the ACC Tournament, but were then knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round by Wisconsin. Long-time coach Jamie Dixon departed soon after to coach at his alma mater, TCU.
Last Game: Pitt blitzed no. 11 Virginia and won going away in overtime, 88-76 the other night. The Panthers shot 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from three, outrebounded the Hoos nearly two to one, and also kept UVA off the free throw line. Four Panthers scored in double figures, led by Jamel Artis with 24. It was the biggest win to-date for Stallings’s Pitt squad, which now has some momentum going into Saturday’s matchup with SU.
"Fear Me, I've Killed Hundreds of Timelords": Michael Young (22.7 points per game) and Artis (21.4) are the easy choices here based on their impressive stat lines so far. But as Cardiac Hill pointed out, you can’t look past Cameron Johnson after his impressive performance against the Orange in the spring. In general, that trio will be a tough test for the Syracuse defense a game after bouncing back vs. Miami.
If Syracuse Wins: SU has its first winning streak since they started the year 4-0. At 2-1 in the league, it would start to breathe some hope into the fan base — though maybe a little too much with a long season still to go and plenty of lingering concerns.
If Syracuse Loses: Damn Pitt to Hell.
Fun Fact No. 1: Just like the football series between these two programs, the basketball series has always lacked something because it was one-sided for extended periods. Dixon was 15-7 against the Orange, while Ben Howland won four straight and lost four straight with a 4-6 record overall vs. SU. At one point from 1989 to 2001, Syracuse won 22 of 25 games against the Panthers.
Fun Fact No. 2: