What a match up tonight in Pittsburgh between the fourth-ranked Panthers and No. 3 Syracuse.
The Orange are 18-0 under head coach Jim Boeheim for the second time in 35 years and can tie a school record with a rare win at the Peterson Events Center.
Syracuse leads the all-time series 61-37 but has struggled recently against Jamie Dixon’s Panthers. Pitt has won 12 of its last 15 games against the Orange, including four straight.
This is a huge week for Syracuse which plays at fourth-ranked Pitt today then hosts seventh-ranked Villanova on Saturday.
The Orange picked up the program’s 1,800 victory last week over Saint John’s and comes into tonight’s match up winning 48 of its last 53 games.
Syracuse already has some quality wins this season over teams like Michigan State and Notre Dame, but a win at Pittsburgh would be by far its best win on the year.
It won’t come easy at the Pete, especially with leading scorer Kris Joseph out for the Orange. Joseph was limited to just 10 minutes Saturday against Cincinnati before leaving the game with a head injury. That’s 15 points and five boards the Orange must make up against a very physical and stingy Pitt defense.
Guard play will be huge for the Orange, especially with Joseph out of the lineup. The backcourt has been inconsistent up to this point but has shown huge improvement lately with the increased scoring efforts of Brandon Triche. After having just one double-digit game through his first nine contests, Triche has seven in his last nine.
If Triche and Scoop Jardine (13 ppg) can consistently hit shots from the outside then that should open things up for Rick Jackson. Jackson is emerging as one of the top forwards, not just in the Big East, but also in the country. He picked up his second straight double-double over the weekend and currently has 11 on the season. His play on the inside is crucial to Syracuse’s success, especially on the boards, where Pitt is plus 13 on the glass.
If the 2-3 zone can force Ashton Gibbs (16 ppg) and Brad Wannamaker (13 ppg) into taking tough shots and at least break even in the rebound battle then Syracuse will definitely solidify itself as a true Final Four contender.