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Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh preview: Five things to watch

So we’re actually having a game again?

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At least as of right now, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (6-1, 1-0) is playing host to the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-2, 1-1). Both teams haven’t played in weeks, but this week’s postponement of the Orange’s game vs. Florida State opened the door for this matchup to materialize for a later Wednesday afternoon tipoff at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Before the game gets started, however, the TNIAAM staff tells you what to watch out for when the Orange and Panthers play.

Ajayi: Kadary Richmond’s defense

One thing we have to look out for is Kadary Richmond in this one. Ya sure he hasn’t played in about a month like everyone else, but it was always his defense that has helped make him a fan favorite this season. In a game where the offense is not going to be there, Kooks and his defense will be key. There’s a reason why he’s ranked No. 22 in steals.

Christian: Don’t over-commit on the three

In a way, this applies to both sides of the ball. Let’s start with the obvious on the defense. What we’ve seen from this Syracuse defense is that players tend to either bite or crash fast on a potential shooter too quickly. This often leads to the open threes that the Orange have been prone to allowing so far this year. On the opposite end of the court, Syracuse players need to be smart about where and when they decide to launch a shot from deep. A large majority of the Orange struggles from range in their last few games are a result of contested shots or shots that were way too early in the shot clock. Both areas need to show improvement from Syracuse in order for the Orange to gain some comfort battling in conference play.

Kevin: What is the rotation going to look like?

I think Bourama Sidibe will return to the starting line-up tomorrow because Jim Boeheim likes to use a center early in games. That means we’ll see the opening night line-up with Alan Griffin as the 6th man (probably) so how will that impact the rotation? Sidibe’s likely to be limited in his first game back but we’re going to see how his return impacts the opportunities for Woody Newton, the back-up center trio of Jon Bol Ajak, Jesse Edwards and Frank Anselem.

Szuba: Battle on the glass

Pittsburgh is 4-1 in games when it out-rebounds its opponent (which includes a win over Northwestern). The Panthers are 1-1 in games when it gets out-rebounded. Syracuse, meanwhile, is 6-0 in games it out-rebounds its opponents. In the lone game the Orange lost the battle of the boards SU fell to Rutgers. Scoring could prove to be a tough row to hoe in a game where both teams are coming off a long pause. But if rebounding proves to continue trend, Syracuse will come out with a win should it owns the glass.

John: Force Pitt to the right of the offensive zone

Yes, it’s just a seven-game sample size, but CBB analytics shows that the Panthers have been a pretty poor shooting team from the right side while within the three-point arc. They’re hitting just 27.8% of shots around the right baseline and 33.3% from the right elbow. Even on the perimeter, they’re 26.7% on right corner threes. The exception, it winds up, is from the right wing where they’re hitting 39.3% of threes (11 for 28). Based on the shot charts, though, using the zone to force Pitt to the right could be the way to go to keep Pitt off-balance all night. They’re far more effective from the left baseline (38.9%) and left elbow (46.2%)... though also terrible from three — 19 of 70 — on that side of the arc.