After 28 games and over four months worth of hoops, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (17-11, 8-9) have officially reached the final game of the 2022-2023 regular season.
And right now, the stakes couldn’t be any higher.
After securing a nine-point victory over the Miami Hurricanes at home over the weekend, Syracuse propelled from looking outside of the 2023 NCAA Tournament to finding the inside track of postseason contention. Syracuse currently projects to finish as a “Last Four In” program in ESPN’s latest bracketology update, the first time all season the Orange have been slated to finish as a tournament team. Talk about stepping up when it matters most.
Watch the highlights from today's win over Miami pic.twitter.com/3t2SE3KWs3— 'Cuse Hoops (@CuseWBB) February 19, 2023
Now, the Orange hope to enter the 2023 ACC Tournament with back-to-back-wins, if ‘Cuse can get the job done on the road Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-17, 3-13). Pittsburgh currently sits with the worst conference record in the ACC, and the Orange defeated the Panthers 89-71 at home earlier this season.
Tip-off between the Orange and Panthers is at 6 pm EST, with the game also available for stream on the ACC Network+.
Here’s what to watch for in Syracuse’s regular season finale against Pitt:
Question #1: Can the Orange avoid repeating its road deja vu?
I’m referring to Syracuse’s broader trend of the team’s second-half offensive struggled on the road. Lately, that end of the court has been a lot better for the Orange against its recent ranked opposition. With that said, one loss that stands out for the Orange from earlier this season was a 12-point defeat to Georgia Tech on the road, who currently have the third-worst conference and overall record in the ACC. Against the Yellow Jackets, it was a similar situation where the Orange couldn’t put enough points on the board.
Pitt is a slightly worse program than Georgia Tech this season statistically-speaking, but the point still stands that Syracuse will have to execute against a Panthers team looking to play the role of spoiler at home.
Sunday was special pic.twitter.com/LpMdeOTzN7— 'Cuse Hoops (@CuseWBB) February 21, 2023
Question #2: Will Syracuse’s defense step up against a recently-hot Panthers’ offense?
Pitt ranks as the third-worst offensive team in the ACC, generating just 63.7 points per game compared to the Orange’s 73.9 points per game (fourth-best in the conference). But, the Panthers are averaging nearly 68 points per game in the team’s last three games, including two instances of scoring at least 75 points. Both ‘Cuse and Pitt are each tied for last in defensive points per game (68.0), but the Orange do boast a far better offensive ceiling. expect a shootout in this one.
Question #3: How defining will a win or loss be for the Orange?
Looking at this game within the context of the Orange’s tournament chances, Syracuse has a golden opportunity to lay a beatdown against a Pitt team looking to just make it to the end of the season. Syracuse hasn’t really had a defining “wow” game on the road outside of a 10-point road win over Boston College. A big-time win would help hamper down concerns over Syracuse’s ceiling in a neutral-court games. At the same time, a loss of any capacity could potentially doom the Orange’s hard work up to this point.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for a regular season finale. Buckle up, folks.
Now it’s your turn: what can the Orange do to secure its second-straight win heading into the conference tournament? Can Syracuse do the unthinkable and cap off its crazy one-year turnaround? Leave your thoughts down below in the comment section.