Teams: Syracuse Orange (12-7, 5-3) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (13-6, 4-4)
Date & Time: Saturday, January 25 at 12 p.m. ET
Odds: ESPN’s matchup predictor says Syracuse has a 76.5% chance of winning against the Panthers.
Radio: Cuse.com, TK 99/105, WAER 88.3
Rivalry: 71-45, Syracuse
Current Streak: 5, Syracuse
First Meeting: The first meeting between Syracuse and Pittsburgh happened all the way back in 1914. Syracuse ended up winning the game, 36-29 behind 20 points from two-time All-American Lewis Castle, one of Syracuse basketball’s first sensational guards. Syracuse would go on to claim an “unofficial National Championship” that year, according to the book Legends of Syracuse Basketball (which I highly recommend reading if you’re an avid fan).
Last Meeting: Syracuse and Pittsburgh played three times last season, with the Orange winning all three. The last of those matchups occurred in the ACC Tournament, where SU was able to dismantle Pitt 73-59 behind exceptional defense and 20 points from Buddy Boeheim.
Head Coaches: Syracuse - Jim Boeheim (44th year; 1,057-386 at SU) | Pitt - Jeff Capel (2nd Year, 26-25 at Pittsburgh)
Coach Bio: What can be said about Jeff Capel? The former Duke bagman, ahem... “assistant coach”, took the head coaching job at Pittsburgh at the beginning of last season. He took over for Kevin Stallings who was coming off a disastrous two year stint, which included an 0-18 ACC record in 2018. With a barren cupboard, Capel has been tasked with the difficult challenge of rebuilding the Pitt basketball program.
Prior to Pitt and Duke, Capel served as the head coach for five years at Oklahoma, taking them to an Elite Eight in 2009 and an overall record of 96-69. He also coached VCU for four seasons from 2002 to 2006, winning the Colonial Conference Championship in 2004 and earning a birth in the NCAA Tournament.
Last Year: In Capel’s first season, the Panthers started strong, winning their first six games and entering conference play at 10-3. Things unraveled from there and Pittsburgh won just four conference games, finishing in a tie for last place with Notre Dame in the ACC. Did I mention Syracuse beat them three times? Because we did.
Last Game: A win over Boston College at home, 74-72. Boston College is not a great offensive team either, so seeing them put up 72 points on Pittsburgh makes me optimistic that their defense isn’t as stout as advertised. Justin Champagnie led the way for the Panthers with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
”Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Let’s keep it right there with Justin Champagnie, who has been a solid steadying force for Pittsburgh all year. Justin is the third leading scorer on the Panthers at 11.6 points per game, but also leads the team in rebounding at 6.9 per contest, good for 15th best in the ACC conference.
Champagnie isn’t the guy who’s going to beat us from the outside, as he’s only hitting 25 percent of his three-point attempts. He is an excellent slasher however, and has an incredibly quick first step that will be tough on the top of the zone. He’s also 6-foot-6, so has the size to bang inside.
He could be tricky for our backline if he’s able to slip by Buddy and Joe up top. Hopefully we continue to pack the paint against the Panthers to make it hard for him on the interior.
If Syracuse Wins: 6-3 in the ACC! Who’d have ever thought it possible after the 1-3 start? Dare I say “Others receiving votes” time? Maybe not quite yet, but it’s certainly possible.
If Syracuse Loses: But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The reality is, there’s the obvious chance for a letdown against the Panthers. All it takes is an off shooting night from our big three and we’re in big trouble. A loss here would be pretty devastating. As mentioned, Pitt is not a great team, and this would probably end as a Q3 loss at best by the end of the year and put a serious dent in any NCAA dreams we may have been formulating in the last couple weeks.
Fun Fact 1: Syracuse has played Pittsburgh the third most of any team in the history of the program. Can you name the top 2? (hint: we’ve played them both this year already)
Fun Fact 2: Let’s Get Streaky The series contains eight different winning streaks of five games or more. The Orange hold the longest winning streak of 10 games from 1992 to 1996. Lawrence Moten and John Wallace led all scorers in six out of those 10 games.