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Syracuse basketball: What to Watch for vs. Pittsburgh and Albany

The holiday season brings us a Syracuse basketball doubleheader.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the first time in nearly a month, both the Syracuse Orange men’s and women’s basketball teams will play in an Orange-filled doubleheader.

The women’s basketball team (9-2, 1-0) is coming off its first conference win and will look to reach 9-0 at the JMA Wireless Dome Tuesday morning where the program will take on the University of Albany Great Danes (6-7).

The men’s team (8-4, 1-0) will look to keep its conference record perfect entering its matchup versus the Pittsburgh Panthers (8-4, 1-0) Tuesday night. The Orange enter its contest with the Panthers on a five-game winning streak, recently coming off a double-digit home victory versus the Cornell Big Red Saturday afternoon.

With both teams looking to keep their momentum going, here’s what to watch for in Tuesday’s Syracuse basketball doubleheader:

WBB What to Watch for Vs. Albany

Dom: Ride the momentum

Albany ranks as the 241st-best per the NCAA, meaning that this is a golden opportunity for Syracuse to get one last sure-fire victory before ACC play really gets going. Coach Felisha Legette-Jack said the Orange need to dominate more in nonconference matchups after a 30-point victory against Wagner. Tuesday morning would be Orange’s last chance to do that. As an added bonus, the game’s theme is “School Day” with several local high schools in the area. It’s never too early to begin thinking about the long-term here.

Mike: Defense to Offense

The Great Danes are one of the nation’s worst rebounding teams on the offensive end. The Orange are hovering around the Top-20 in defensive rebounds. You see where I’m going with this. SU just needs to make sure Albany doesn’t get too many open looks; as long as that happens, FLJ’s squad should have no issue racking up points off fast transitions.

Kevin: Set the alarms early

Albany shouldn’t challenge Syracuse but starting a game at 10:30 means the players need to get moving early. It’s not always easy to adjust to different start times so the Orange need to find a way to get going early and squash the Albany upset bid.

MBB What to Watch for Vs. Pitt

Dom: Taking advantage of fastbreak opportunities

Pittsburgh enters its matchup against Syracuse with the fifth-best defense in the ACC, including ranking 4th in opponent field goal percentage and 3rd in three-point percentage. However, the Panthers do have the third-most turnovers per game in the conference, and Syracuse’s youngsters (especially Mintz) thrive in transition. The more the Orange can get out and run, the better the offense will flow.

Mike: Rebuilding vs. Retooling

The Orange and Panthers both overhauled their rosters after disappointing 2021-22 campaigns. But while SU brought in a huge freshmen class to contribute immediately, Pitt instead raided the transfer portal for three new starters: Forward Blake Hinson and Guards Greg Elliot and Nelly Cummings. Hinson was the wild card, having not played college ball for two years, but he’s emerged as the team’s top scorer. This game will be a clash between traditional recruiting and the modern strategy of plucking transfer players with some college experience.

Kevin: Rebound

The Panthers are top 45 in the country in all rebounding categories even though they only have two starters over 6’5. We just watched Syracuse allow Cornell to grab 22 offensive rebounds so if the Orange can’t do a better job of grabbing misses, they are going to struggle to win. Can Chris Bell and Benny Williams be effective on the defensive glass in this one?

Tip-off between Syracuse and Albany begins at 10:30 am in the JMA Wireless Dome, with the game also being streamed on the ESPN+ ACC Network. The game between Syracuse and Pittsburgh begins at 9 pm, and that contest will be streamed on ESPNU.

With both programs looking hot to keep their winning grooves going, what will you be watching for?