Teams: Syracuse Orange (12-5, 3-1) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (12-5, 2-2)
Day & Time: Saturday, January 19 at 2 p.m. EST.
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY.
Line: N/A. ESPN’s BPI gives Syracuse an 82.6 percent chance of beating Pittsburgh.
TV/Streaming: RSN (check your local affiliate)/ACC Network Extra
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, SiriusXM: 956 (Syracuse) | 974 (Pitt)
Pitt blog: Cardiac Hill
Rivalry: 68-45, Syracuse
Current Streak: 2, Orange
First Meeting: You know how everyone associates Chris Webber with that timeout he called while playing for Michigan against North Carolina in the national title game all those years ago? Well, it was Pittsburgh which actually started that whole brain-fart fad.
As OrangeHoops tells it, Pitt led Syracuse 28-27 with 16 seconds left in a 1914 contest. However, Pitt received a technical for calling an extra time out. The Orange would eventually tie the game at 28 to force OT, then win 36-29 in overtime. Lew Castle scored 20 points for SU.
Last Meeting: Hello, Bourama Sidibe! The freshman big, who had missed significant time due to a left knee injury, came back to record a career-best 18 points and 16 rebounds in Syracuse’s 60-55 win at Pittsburgh.
Sidibe, who many thought might even miss the rest of the season with the bum knee, played 31 minutes off the bench for Jim Boeheim’s team. The Hall of Fame coach must have suffered a head injury of his own, because Boeheim said something positive, calling Sidibe’s play “spectacular.” What’s more, Syracuse’s other front-court members were a combined 6 of 26 from the field. Sidibe, meanwhile, hit 6 of his 8 attempts—albeit mostly from at or near the rim. A spectacular indeed.
Sophomore Tyus Battle added 14 points in what was the Orange’s third straight victory. A win that came despite Syracuse’s only having scored 22 points in the game’s first twenty minutes. In other words, it was a classic Pitt rock fight.
Head Coaches: Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (43rd year, 1,036-375); Pitt: Jeff Capel III (1st year at Pitt, 12-5—183-113 overall)
Coach Bio: Jeff Capel III has been a fixture of the college landscape for years. Capel first burst on to the scene as a key player for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke from 1993 through 1997. In his time playing for the Blue Devils, Capel racked up over 1,600 points, 430 assists and finished in the school’s top ten for minutes played, three-point makes, three-point percentage, field goals made and assists.
After moving on from playing, Capel joined the coaching ranks as an assistant at Old Dominion (bah) in 2000, and moving to VCU the following season. Capel took over the Rams as head coach in 2002 and had moderate success. His VCU team nearly upset Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament in ‘04.
From there, Capel moved on to Oklahoma which saw him rise to national prominence and fall from grace with lightning quickness. The kid born and raised in North Carolina suddenly was getting big-time recruits to sign on to play in Norman, Oklahoma. The biggest? Blake Griffin, who helped Capel and the Sooners get to the Elite Eight after beating Syracuse in the Sweet 16 back in 2009.
Ultimately, Capel flamed out at OU, having five players leave his program before the ‘10-’11 season. His time there ended after the the program was found to have violated two NCAA rules—Capel was not tied to the issues, but with two straight losing seasons, he was shown the door.
That led to his going back to Duke to assist Coach K. In fact, after some time, it looked as though Capel could be Mike Hopkins to Coach K’s legacy. But Capel surprised a lot of people in the college basketball world by agreeing to take over Pitt this past offseason.
Year two of the Kevin Stallings experience at Pittsburgh somehow went worse than the first. Pitt absolutely bottomed out, going 8-24 overall and 0-18 in the ACC. Yuck.
The craziest stat to me is that the Panthers broke 70 points in an ACC game just one time last year—that was a 75-88 loss at Florida State.
You would like another sad stat from that Pitt-iful (see what I did there!) team?
Pitt freshman Trey McGowens has already attempted more free throws (113) than any player on the Panthers' roster during all of last season. Most attempted was 112.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 16, 2019
Last season was a train crashing into a garbage fire full of tires and grease for the Panthers.
Last Game: Syracuse might be flying high after winning at Duke, but don’t count your wins before the buzzers have sounded. The Panthers have been feisty this season, especially so as of late.
Pitt ripped into No. 11 Florida State, 75-62. Trey McGowens tallied 30 points, Xavier Johnson 16 and Au’Diese Toney chipped in 9 points and 8 boards for the Panthers in the upset victory.
Jeff Capel’s team took a two-point game at half and ran away with it in the second. That despite the Seminoles having a 30 to 20 scoring advantage in the paint and having 18 second-chance points.
It was the Panthers relentless drives to the hoop on offense in the game’s final twenty minutes that proved to be the difference. Pitt held off a late rally as Johnson connected on a two-pointer and then hit a layup.
Despite having five losses already this season, the Panthers have beaten Louisville, barely lost at N.C. State and took out the ‘Noles in the last three contests.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Freshman Xavier Johnson leads Pitt in scoring at 17 points per game. The guard also is tops for the Panthers in assists (4.7 per) and shoots 84 percent from the free-throw line. Johnson struggled from the field against Florida State, but still scored 18 points and previously had 25 at N.C. State and 21 against Louisville.
Trey McGowens is also a special player. Another frosh, McGowens made 18 of his 19 free throws against the ‘Noles. Furthermore, McGowens hit 2 of his 5 three-point attempts in that game and drilled 4 of his 7 threes on the road against the Wolfpack.
If Syracuse Wins: The Orange improves its ACC record to 4-1, just like we all kind of expected about a week ago. Of course, no one in their right mind thought that Syracuse would have lost to Georgia Tech and won at Duke. But nonetheless, four wins in five conference games is impressive.
On top of that, a victory can continue a positive-momentum build off the game in Durham on Monday. Beating the Blue Devils was far more important than beating the Panthers. But in terms of that dreaded NCAA Tournament resume, both games now have similar importance.
If Syracuse Loses: Gotcha! The second Syracuse ropes you back in, it also punches you in the mouth, stomach and groin at the exact same time. Given the last few years, let’s just say you better enter this game in a full-on armor suit.
Fun Fact No. 1: All-time, Pittsburgh has a record of 1,601 victories and 1,152 losses. Jim Boeheim, meanwhile, is 1,036-375 (don’t you tell me about vacated anything!). Imagine if Boeheim had been born in Mount Lebanon or McCandless Township instead of Lyons, NY?
Fun Fact No. 2: Pitt’s 8-24 overall record last year set the record for most defeats in a single season for the program. That team stunk, y’all.