The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (12-6, 1-4) returns home on Tuesday night to host Pittsburgh (8-10, 0-5) at 9 p.m. ET.
The Orange, losers of four straight, could easily be 3-2 in ACC play. Instead, Syracuse dropped a nail-bitter to No. 23 Florida State in double overtime, squandered a double-digit halftime lead to Notre Dame and three-point halftime lead to Wake Forest.
As for Pittsburgh — what a mess. The Panthers haven’t won an ACC game yet this season, with their closest loss coming by 14 points at Virginia Tech.
The Orange are a 16.5-point favorite (as of earlier on Monday afternoon).
Here are five things to watch:
1. Three guard lineup
Jim Boeheim went with the three guard lineup quite a bit against No. 23 Florida State last week. That was partly due to foul trouble, but the lineup proved worthy in the second half as the Orange overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to force two overtimes. Will we see more of a three guard lineup against Pittsburgh?
2. Howard Washington
Freshman guard Howard Washington received extended playing time against Florida State. His playing time was in correlation with some foul trouble, but the frosh did well in his 24 points. He was 3-of-4 from the floor and scored nine points in the loss. He finished with just one turnover.
3. ‘Who cares’
When asked about Syracuse’s slow start in the ACC after Saturday’s fourth straight loss, Jim Boeheim responded with ‘who cares.’
He’s right — there are 12 ACC games left, and of those four loses, SU was the underdog in three of them. Now, moving forward the Orange have a lot of work to do. It starts with taking care of business against Pitt on Tuesday.
Now, on the flip side, people do care. The 1-4 start puts Syracuse in a hole that will be difficult to crawl out of in a loaded league.
4. Start of a run?
Syracuse has the opportunity to win four straight ACC games to get over .500. After Tuesday’s game against Pitt, the Orange will play host the following Wednesday to Boston College. That game is followed by a road affair with Pitt on Jan. 27th with George Tech just four days later. Is it far-fetched? Eh, probably. But it’s the easiest four-game stretch of SU’s ACC schedule. If they’re going to make some noise, it starts with Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
5. Fast start
Why not just get off to a fast start and not have to worry the entire 40 minutes about winning an ACC game? If Syracuse can do that on Tuesday it’ll give other guys a chance to get more comfortable in the system, and, in addition, give Tyus Battle, who is averaging over 38 minutes per game, some much-needed rest. I’d like to see Howard Washington, among others, get extended minutes, too. Tuesday could deliver that.