Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Syracuse Orange Pick
Pittsburgh Panthers (14-18 SU, 15-15-2 ATS) vs. Syracuse Orange (19-12 SU, 17-14 ATS)
When: Wednesday, March 12, 2019 – 9:30 PM ET
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, N.C.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SYR -7 (5Dimes)
Last Time Out: Pittsburgh beat Boston College 80-70; Syracuse lost 67-55 to Clemson.
Scouting the Panthers:
Jeff Capel’s plan was simple for the Panthers’ first game at the ACC tournament: attack the basket. The strategy worked to perfection, as Pitt rode Trey McGowens and Xavier Johnson to a comfortable win over the Eagles because both players got good looks inside the arc and got to the free throw line.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the strategy isn’t going to work a second time because of Syracuse’s defense. The Orange’s zone isn’t going to allow the Panther guards to penetrate regularly, and it certainly isn’t going to let Pittsburgh score 48 points in the paint. So the Panthers are going to have to find offense elsewhere, and that won’t be easy to do because Pittsburgh isn’t great from the field (42 percent) and isn’t a team of great 3-point shooters, which you need to have to beat Syracuse. In short, Pitt has a problem here.
Scouting the Orange:
In fairness to Syracuse, few teams faced as tough a stretch down the final five games as the Orange, who had three road games of five, including one at North Carolina. The two home games were only against Duke and Virginia, both of whom rank in the top five nationally. So the fact that Syracuse has gone 1-4 in its final five games shouldn’t really cause anyone to be concerned, as most teams would be lucky to go 2-3 against that slate of games.
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However, the last loss was a genuine red flag given that it both came against fellow bubble team Clemson and that the Orange allowed themselves to get outfought by the Tigers. When Syracuse does lose, it’s rarely because of a team getting inside and asserting its will, but that’s what Clemson did. The Orange cannot afford to slip up again, especially to the likes of a team with Pittsburgh’s resume.
Pressure. There’s no pressure whatsoever on the lower seeded teams in the ACC tournament, because they know that they don’t have to worry about making a run to the final. Nor is there pressure when your team is already safely in the field. Syracuse, however, has neither of those situations. The Orange are instead facing the opposite problem of having their entire season come down to one game. A win over Pittsburgh won’t do anything to help Syracuse’s profile, but a loss could bring everything crashing down.
Pittsburgh will Cover if:
The Panthers can get the same kind of shots that they got against Boston College. Pittsburgh’s offense just doesn’t have enough to produce a result on its own, and the Panthers are going to need an off day from the Orange to get the points they need to stay within shouting distance.
Syracuse will Cover if:
The Orange can suffocate the Panthers’ attack from the beginning. Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t going to scare many teams, and it’s certainly not going to scare Syracuse when the Orange are doing what they usually do on defense. As long as the Panthers don’t get hot from 3-point range, which seems very unlikely to happen, Syracuse should be fine. Right? Let me know if you agree.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Two meetings between the two former Big East rivals have produced the exact same result: a nine-point win for the Orange. That seems to be where these teams are at right now, and that’s the way that I expect things to stay moving forward. I don’t think Pittsburgh is going to get blown out, but nor do I think the Panthers have the ability to stay close with the Orange in a third meeting.
It’s a bit risky to go with Syracuse given that it’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season, but Pittsburgh just doesn’t strike me as the kind of team that Syracuse should have many problems with. Throw in the fact that Syracuse needs this game to finish off its bid for the NCAA tournament, and I feel pretty safe taking the Orange here.