SYRACUSE ORANGE (23-0)
at PITTSBURGH PANTHERS (20-4)
Petersen Events Center - Pittsburgh, PA
Tip-off: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Pittsburgh -1
No. 1 and undefeated Syracuse hits the road as a slight underdog Wednesday to face No. 25 Pittsburgh for the second time this season.
When these two teams met earlier in the season on Jan. 18, Syracuse eked out a 59-54 SU and ATS victory at the Carrier Dome as a 4.5-point favorite. Despite being outrebounded 35-24 in the game, the Orange pulled out the victory, holding their former Big East rival to 38.3% FG while shooting 51.2% themselves. But this one will be played at Pittsburgh, where the Panthers have lost just twice this season (13-2 SU) despite a paltry 3-8-1 ATS mark there. Pittsburgh (4-6-1 ATS in ACC) has actually lost two of its past three at home (0-3 ATS) this season, falling to Duke and Virginia before escaping past 18-point underdog Virginia Tech in double overtime Saturday by a 62-57 score. That gives the Panthers four straight ATS defeats, sending them to 7-12-2 ATS (37%) on the season. The Orange (13-6 ATS, 68%) have been a fantastic bet all season and even better in conference play, going 7-3 ATS against ACC foes, and are a stellar 4-1 ATS on the road where they have outscored host teams by 11.4 PPG. Syracuse is also 9-0 ATS versus good rebounding teams (4+ RPG margin) this season. But the Panthers are not only 45-26 ATS (63%) versus top-level teams (80%+ win pct.) under Jamie Dixon, but they have won their past five meetings at home (SU and ATS) against the Orange, whose last road win in this series came back in 2004. Pittsburgh is 14-6 SU (15-5 ATS) in the past 20 meetings between the schools.
Can unbeaten Syracuse finally end its long losing skid in Pittsburgh? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 58% ATS (200-144-11) mark, including a hefty 60% ATS (168-110-6) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Brian is at 65% ATS (45-24-2) in Best Bets for the season and 69% ATS (38-17-1) since Nov. 26. StatFox Dave is 60% ATS (42-28-1) for the season and 66% ATS (25-13) since Dec. 18, while StatFox Scott is a strong 57% ATS (39-30-2) for the season and 58% ATS (29-21-2) since Dec. 2. StatFox Zach is a solid 55% ATS (37-30-4) on Best Bets this season, including 57% ATS (31-23-3) since Nov. 22, while StatFox Gary is 54% ATS (37-32-2) for the season, and 57% ATS (31-23) since Nov. 29.
The Syracuse offense isnít particularly daunting, scoring 71.1 PPG (187th in Div. I) on 46.0% shooting (94th in nation) with only 12.8 APG (175th in Div. I). But the Orange take excellent care of the ball with 9.2 turnovers per game (5th-fewest in nation) and outrebound their opponents by +5.1 RPG. Defensively, they limit possessions and hold their foes to 58.4 PPG (7th in Div. I) on 40.7% shooting and 33.8% threes. The key to this team both offensively and defensively is freshman PG Tyler Ennis (11.8 PPG, 5.7 APG), who paces the team in passing and defense with 2.2 SPG. Not only does he average an excellent 3.9 Ast/TO ratio, but he has been continually clutch late in games. Ennis netted 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting to lead Syracuse past the Panthers earlier in the season. His backcourt mate, SG Trevor Cooney (14.0 PPG) is also savvy defensively with an identical 2.2 SPG to Ennis and is a prolific shooter on the offensive end, hitting 44% of his threes. However, he went just 2-for-8 in the first meeting with the Panthers. Senior SF C.J. Fair (16.8 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is head coach Jim Boeheimís top scorer, and he gets help down low from PF Jerami Grant (12.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG), the teamís top rebounder. The duo combined for 25 points (10-of-20 FG) in the win over Pittsburgh last month, but Grant was held to only four rebounds, a number heíll have to improve on this time around.
The Panthers offense averages 73.3 PPG (128th in Div. I) on 46.8% shooting (61st in nation) and 34.6% threes with an impressive 16.1 APG (19th in Div. I). With 36.5 RPG (108th in nation), they outrebound opponents by a +6.5 RPG margin, and if they can control the glass again in this one, they have to like their chances, especially with a defense that gives up only 60.1 PPG (12th in Div. I) on 40.0% FG (39th in nation) and 32.1% threes. These defensive numbers improve at home to 58.9 PPG, 38.5% FG and 31.7% threes. Senior SF Lamar Patterson (17.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.5 APG) is the teamís top scorer and distributor, adding 1.5 SPG on the defensive end. He paced scored a game-high 18 points (4-of-9 threes) in the first meeting against Syracuse, but did so on 6-of-15 shooting. Fellow senior PF Talib Zanna (12.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG) was the only Pittsburgh player make even half of his shots in that loss to the Orange, going 4-for-8 for 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds (4 offensive). The senior has struggled lately though, going 9-for-24 from the field (38%) during the teamís past four games. Junior SG Cameron Wright (11.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.9 SPG) is the teamís third and final double-digit scorer and top steal-getter, who has 15.0 PPG and 7.5 RPG in the past two games, where three overtime sessions have allowed him to log 85 minutes. But also donít forget about sophomore PG James Robinson (8.3 APG, 4.0 APG), who is an important passer in this offense and is coming off a 16-point effort in the teamís double-OT win against Virginia Tech. Like Ennis, Robinson rarely turns the ball over, as evidenced by his phenomenal 4.5 Ast/TO ratio this season.